by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)
Never has the phrase “close, but no cigar” more aptly applied to a basketball team.
Northwestern fell to Iowa, 60-55, in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. It marked the team’s ninth loss by seven points or less, but this loss had more severe consequences: the Wildcats season is over.
With a sub-.500 record, NU (13-17, 5-11 Big Ten) would have had to win out in the tournament to move on to postseason play.
Senior Kendall Hackney, the team’s leading scorer for the season, once again led the team with 13 points in her final game as a Wildcat. She finishes her career at ninth on NU’s all-time leading scorers list, and first in number of game played, with 126.
Fellow senior Dannielle Diamant grabbed 13 rebounds. Though she did not record any blocks in this match, she finishes her career with the fifth-most blocks in NU history.
These two outgoing stars will give way to two promising freshmen, Maggie Lyon and Lauren Douglas.
Lyon, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, struggled in her first game since winning the award. She did not score her first points until the 8:20 mark of the second half and tallied only seven points for the game, breaking her streak of 12 straight games with double-digit point totals. Her normally sure-fire three-point shooting faltered as she hit only one of five shots beyond the arc.
Douglas, who was notably left off of the Big Ten All-Freshman team, tallied four blocks—tying a career high—and three steals in 17 minutes on the floor.
Sophomore Karly Roser, another young rising star for the Cats, added 11 points and six assists.
After an initial 5-0 lead for the Hawkeyes, Roser got the Cats on the board with a layup and the Cats battled back, eventually tying the game at 12 on a Hackney jumper midway through the first half.
Iowa’s Morgan Johnson and Bethany Doolittle, as they did when the two teams played five days ago, took control of the game and helped build an 11-point Hawkeye lead.
NU found a burst of energy and went on a 7-0 run just before half to close the deficit to four, 30-26.
The Cats could not carry the momentum into the second half, as Iowa gradually increased its lead to 15 with 3:34 left in the game and the Cats season all but over.
But this NU team is nothing if not exciting.
Sophomore Alex Cohen knocked down two consecutive shots, Lyon hit her first three-pointer of the game, and Hackney added a layup. Suddenly, the Cats were within five points.
However, the comeback came too late, as only four seconds remained on the clock and the Hawkeyes held on to move to the second round.
For the Cats, the season ended fittingly: a comeback that fell just short. Much of the season went like that for NU. But this young team, spearheaded by Roser and Lyon, has the talent and now the experience to flip the script next season.