CHICAGO, IL. — Northwestern (3-1) is both a young team and an extremely talented one, and both those traits were on prominent display in the team’s 78-75 road loss to crosstown rival DePaul (4-1).
In a frenetic, fast-paced game, Northwestern was led by its veterans in Veronica Burton and Courtney Shaw, who scored 15 and 14 points, respectively, while also being bolstered by the young guns, as the freshmen tandem of Jillian Brown and Melanie Daley pitched in a combined 29 points themselves.
Having yet faced any significant resistance to this point in the season, Northwestern took a punch straight to the mouth right from the opening bell on Sunday night. The ‘Cats couldn’t do anything right inside Wintrust Arena, turning the ball over a whopping seven times in the first quarter, and surrendering a 16-0 run to fall behind 25-9 early, and 32-13 at the end of the period.
Northwestern seemingly had no answer to DePaul’s press or the hot three point shooting of Sonya Morris, who drilled both of her two attempts in the quarter and finished 5-of-7 from the field for 13 points in the first quarter of play. The senior guard would finish the game with a game-best 20 points along with nine rebounds.
The ‘Cats got off to a better start in the second with some amped up pressure on defense, forcing three turnovers from DePaul in the first three minutes of the period. On offense, NU found its rhythm by pushing in transition and sporting a balanced attack, as six players scored at least four points in the first half of play.
But while multiple players were involved in the comeback, it was freshmen Brown and Daley who stood out among the crowd. Brown drilled a big three and two difficult pull-ups, while Daley was a menace pressuring DePaul’s guards out top, causing havoc and tacking on three buckets of her own during the second. Despite getting shellacked in the early going, Northwestern now found itself down only 45-38 at the halfway point and possessing nearly all of the game’s momentum.
If the second quarter was a change of pace from the first, then the third quarter was a complete turning of the tables. Spearheaded by more stellar shooting from Brown, Northwestern methodically fought its way back into control, and a fast break layup off an incredible steal from Burton finally gave the ‘Cats their first lead since going up 2-1 in the opening minutes of the game.
Another stellar play from Burton (this one her signature statue-of-liberty style lefty layup) kept the run going, and intense pressure from Daley led to another fast break layup for Joe McKeown’s squad. However, DePaul eventually settled down on offense, while switching to a 2-3 on defense and daring the ‘Cats to beat them from outside. All in all, the final minutes of the period were filled with back and forth scoring, and the two teams entered the final quarter separated by the slimmest of margins, as Northwestern clung to a 55-54 lead.
Unfortunately, it was a rough start to the fourth quarter for the ‘Cats, with several wide open jumpers missing the mark, meanwhile two big buckets from DePaul’s Lexi Held gave the hosting team the lead early in the period. That’s when Shaw stepped up for Northwestern, scoring eight straight points on four right-side layups, three of which were via assists from her teammates, and the final one an emphatic putback following an offensive rebound from the senior center.
Tied at 68 with just under two minutes remaining, Burton finally got a three to fall, her only make out of six attempts on the night, handing NU a three-point edge in the waning minutes.
And that’s when the wheels fell off.
A jumper from Deja Church cut the lead to one before a bad pass from Brown was intercepted by DePaul’s Aneesah Morrow, who then found Held on the break, who was fouled by Shaw on a three-point attempt in what wound up being a catastrophic error. Held would sink all three free throws, giving DePaul the lead before Brown would make up for her mistake with a game-tying bucket of her own.
After two more free throws put DePaul back in front, Northwestern had the ball with a chance to tie but was unsuccessful, as Burton’s leaner wouldn’t fall through heavy contact and no whistle.
No foul called. Northwestern will get one last shot to tie it. pic.twitter.com/ExVbHCIvwd— Inside National Champs (@insidenu) November 22, 2021
After Held split the pair at the line, Northwestern got one final chance trailing by three, but the pass to Caleigh Walsh following her seal was just the slightest bit off target, and the freshman center fumbled it out of bounds while attempting to gather it, driving the final nail into the ‘Cats’ coffin. A buzzer beating bank shot from Lauryn Satterwhite added on two points to the final tally, but regardless the team found itself on the wrong end of a 78-75 loss.
Northwestern next takes the court on Thanksgiving day to play South Dakota in the 2021 Paradise Jam Reef Tournament.