EVANSTON, Ill. — For the first time in five games, Northwestern’s full starting lineup was back Sunday against Marquette.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the returns of Veronica Burton and Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah were not enough to overcome the No. 18 Golden Eagles (7-2), who stormed past Northwestern (5-3) 76-57 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Burton only scored three points on limited time, but Kunaiyi-Akpanah played like herself again, finishing with 14 points and 15 rebounds for her sixth double-double of the season. Seeing the whole starting lineup together again only lasted so long, as Jordan Hamilton suffered a leg injury late in the game and had to be helped off the court. The seriousness of the injury is still unknown.
While the Wildcats were able to keep the game close early in the first, the Golden Eagles soon pulled away by finishing the quarter with a 14-0 run in the last five minutes of the period.
Coming out in the second, Burton ended the drought by hitting her lone basket of the night. The Wildcats quickly gained momentum after Marquette’s leading scorer of the night Danielle King had to be carried off the court with an apparent injury and was unable to return. From there, Northwestern went on a 9-0 run and was able to cut Marquette’s lead to just four points at the half after outscoring the Golden Eagles 19-7 in the second quarter.
Early in the second half, it appeared that the Wildcats would keep their momentum going after tying the game at 34. The Golden Eagles quickly responded with a 10-point run, which Northwestern had no answer for. Marquette’s lead ultimately held after the Wildcats shot a dismal 8.3 percent from the field and made only one field goal in the final period.
“There were a lot of runs in this game,” McKeown said. “I feel like we struggled to score when we had to.... They kind of make you pay for little things that other teams don’t.”
The Wildcats have struggled to maintain offensive consistency oOn Wednesday, Northwestern dropped its date with No. 20 DePaul, 76-60. After shooting 78 percent from the field and scoring 32 points in the first quarter, Northwestern fell flat, and the Blue Demons slowly chipped away at the lead. Even more concerning than the loss was the injury to Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah 29 seconds in, which ruled her out for the rest of the night.
While Northwestern’s three consecutive losses have been difficult for the team, they have faced a lot of impressive competition. The loss to Pittsburgh last week was one the team wishes they could have back, but McKeown knew this weekend’s Big East matchups would not be easy.
Many positives still came out of the weekend. The Wildcats were able to score 32 points in a quarter against a ranked team. They were able to carry the momentum and outscore another ranked team 19-7 in a quarter after falling behind early. Lindsey Pulliam extended her double-digit scoring streak to seven games, and Hamilton scored a season high of 20 points against DePaul.
If Hamilton is able to recover quickly, Northwestern can finally move past the myriad injuries it has endured this season and focus on winning again, as the team is only two games away from conference play.
“You’ve gotta be ready,” McKeown said. “Everybody [...] on this team is capable of stepping up. I think we’ll be fine.”