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Three takeaways from Northwestern’s three games at the Paradise Jam

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The weather was paradise, the results, not so much.

Amit Mallik, NUsports.com

While millions across the country spent Thanksgiving with their friends and family, Northwestern’s women’s basketball team spent the holiday weekend competing at the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands. The Wildcats faced some tough competition — South Dakota, Pittsburgh, and No. 23 Texas A&M. While all three games were close and competitive, Northwestern came away with just one win in St. Thomas. The ‘Cats defeated South Dakota 73-57 before falling to Pittsburgh 72-60 and Texas A&M 77-68. Here are three things we took away from the squad’s trip to the Virgin Islands.

1. The Wildcat offense is very inefficient

In each of its losses this tournament, Northwestern’s defense kept its opponents within striking distance, but its offense was unable to capitalize on the takeaways it forced. The inability to set up the offense led to bad shots early in the shot clock, which usually were a quick release three from either Caileigh Walsh or Jillian Brown. The ‘Cats shot their way out of games with deep misses, where they combined for just a 19% mark (7 of 37) over the two losses. The team needs to focus on getting more interior and mid-range shots up and taking more time off the clock to run a consistent offense. Veronica Burton does a great job as the primarily ball handler and generating offense even when she isn’t having the best shooting game herself, but her first pass of the possession shouldn’t be the only pass before a shot goes up.

2. The Blizzard defense has its holes

While it managed to force countless turnovers and hold its opponents to low shooting percentages, the Blizzard defense was gashed in several different ways Friday and Saturday. Pittsburgh utilized the fast break to attack the middle of Northwestern’s defense before it could get set up, and was able to continuously find the holes of the unprepared Wildcat defense. All in all, the ‘Cats seemingly had no answer for a Pittsburgh squad that was missing its two leading scorers. In a complete reversal of roles, Northwestern was gashed from the outside Saturday against Texas A&M, allowing the Aggies to shoot 10-of-16 from deep. The ‘Cats actually played pretty well defensively in the post against A&M, not allowing a single paint basket in the first half and only four the entire game, but they consistently left shooters open behind the arc who were able to seal the deal.

3. Northwestern needs to utilize its bigs more

One thing the Wildcats were successful with in all three games was scoring in the paint paint. Against the Panthers, Northwestern fell into an 8-2 hole early, but was able to find Courtney Shaw under the basket for eight quick points to help the ‘Cats crawl back into the contest. Shaw wasn’t the only one to find success, as Walsh and Paige Mott also scored tough buckets in the paint when they received the rare opportunity to do so. Given the team’s poor shooting numbers from beyond the arc, Northwestern should certainly look to build upon its paint presence moving forward.