On a gorgeous day in a tropical location, the Northwestern Wildcats (4-2) played far from a beautiful game and wound up with their second loss in three games as a result. Despite the high of 82 degrees in St. Thomas, the ‘Cats struggled to keep up with Pittsburgh (5-1), and ultimately fell by a score of 72-60.
In a game where the Wildcats lacked a true leader, freshman Jillian Brown finished atop the team in scoring, accounting for 14 points. Courtney Shaw and Veronica Burton each added 12, but Shaw did so on 6-for-9 shooting while boasting 10 boards, while Burton was an inefficient 3-for-11 from the field while recording five assists and four steals. Down their top two scorers, the Panthers found a new offensive source in Liatu King, who, as the only member of the Pittsburgh squad that reached double digits, accounted for 23 points. Pitt also dominated NU in the paint, outrebounding the Wildcats 54 to 30.
The ‘Cats started off slowly on offense, converting on only two of their first nine attempts from the floor. They were led by Shaw, who had eight in the quarter, but failed to convert on two chances at three-point plays. When the period ended, the Panthers were ahead 18-13, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 2-for-3 from beyond the arc. Conversely, NU was just 6-for-17 overall and 1-for-6 from three at the quarter break.
After falling behind further, trailing by as much as 22-14, Northwestern began to show a little fight. A three-point play from Burton drew the ‘Cats within three with around five minutes left in the second quarter, and persistent shooting issues from the Panthers, who shot 1-for-8 for a five-minute-long stretch during the second, kept NU close despite its own offensive disfunction.
Still, Pitt found a way to once again distance itself from Northwestern late in the half. Led by King, who boasted an eight-point, nine-rebound stat line at the half, the Panthers closed the quarter on a 9-5 run to lead 31-24 as the teams went to the locker rooms.
Northwestern came out of the midway break with guns blazing. Jillian Brown knocked down a three and Burton hit a floater to put Northwestern down only two less than a minute into second half play. The Backcourt Burglar continued her increased involvement, scoring six points in the first three-and-a-half minutes of the quarter and helping NU pull within a point of their opponents.
The Wildcats’ game-long rebounding and transition struggles persisted, though. Pitt garnered a number of second chances and started to hit more of its shots later in the period, finishing 5-for-10 as a team from the floor in the period and heading into the fourth with a 51-44 lead. It was more of the same for the ‘Cats in the final frame. NU went 7-for-22 from the field in the last ten minutes of play and ultimately fell by a 12-point margin.
The Wildcats will finish off the Paradise Jam tomorrow at 7 p.m. CT, when they’ll take on Texas A&M. The Aggies finished in the Sweet Sixteen of last year’s NCAA Tournament.