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Northwestern women’s basketball drops Big Ten opener to Minnesota 90-63

Northwestern won the first quarter, then the defense faltered.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Maryland v Northwestern Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern women’s basketball is having a rough go of it. Despite getting point guard Jordan Hamilton back from injury, the Wildcats (7-8, 0-1 B1G) squandered an early lead and got blown out by a veteran Minnesota (12-2, 1-0 B1G) team in their Big Ten opener.

Northwestern was missing senior Lydia Rohde in this game, but I’m not sure it would’ve made much of a difference. Minnesota’s Kenisha Bell and Destiny Pitts carved up Northwestern defenses, scoring 26 and 22 points, respectively. Minnesota also forced 18 Northwestern turnovers compared to just 9 for the Golden Gophers, a direct cause of Northwestern scoring just 26 points in the second half.

If you only watched the first quarter, you would assume Northwestern would have stayed in the game for a while. The Wildcats broke out to an 11-4 lead and were playing well with Jordan Hamilton back in the lineup. Hamilton hit a three to put Northwestern up 14-6, and the Wildcats appeared to be in business.

Minnesota put together a 8-0 run to start the second quarter, but the Wildcats were able to battle back and tie the game at 32-32 early in the period. Then, the wheels fell off the bus. The Gophers went on a 15-5 run in the final 5:28 of the first half. Their 15-point halftime lead would only grow as the game wore on. I won’t give you a blow-by-blow account of the second half, but the game ended with Northwestern down 27, so that should tell enough.

The Wildcats have not been able to put together a complete performance against good opposition since the huge opening run they had against DePaul. The team has struggled with Jordan Hamilton out, and despite a 74-40 win against Eastern Illinois last week, the Wildcats have looked inexperienced and out of sorts. This team still has the young talent to find its way into success, but consistency will be the key issue. But Minnesota is a stellar veteran team with Carlie Wagner and Bell (a transfer from Marquette). Northwestern should have ample opportunities to grow and develop against other Big Ten teams, particularly in its next matchup at Illinois on 12/31.