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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern loses a heartbreaker to Penn State, 63-59

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A back and forth game all night ended in a brutal loss for the Wildcats.

Photo via @nuwbball on Twitter.

EVANSTON, Ill. — Following a blowout loss against Michigan State, Northwestern (11-6, 3-3 B1G) came up short against Penn State (9-7, 3-3 B1G), 63-59.

Once again, Veronica Burton led the ‘Cats in scoring, registering 16 points on the night, while Laya Hartman also made it to the double-digit points mark in just her first career start. For Penn State, Makenna Marisa and Leilani Kapinus led the way with 20 and 15 points, respectively.

The ‘Cats couldn’t get much going early on. In her first start, Hartman came out firing, taking six shots in the first quarter, while only making two — including a corner three. Burton got on the board with a tough layup in transition but the ‘Cats found themselves down 8-7 heading into the first timeout.

After the break, Welsh-Ryan Arena was treated to a classic Burton sequence, as the senior guard hit a deep three, immediately stole it away on the other end and finished with a fast-break layup. Lauryn Satterwhite then checked in and made an immediate impact off the bench with tough defense and three assists, and the ‘Cats ended the period up 18-14 on the visitors.

Penn State fought back in the second quarter behind six points from Kapinus, while forward Anna Camden went 2-for-3 from three, including a triple that knotted the game at 22. The Nittany Lions employed a full-court press that led to five Wildcat turnovers in the second quarter alone and gave PSU control of the action for a short time. Finally, Jillian Brown drilled a three in response to stop the bleeding from the 12-4 Penn State run. A putback from Courtney Shaw off a missed free throw tied the score 28-28 entering the half.

Both offenses started the second half cold, but Northwestern jumped out to a four-point lead behind buckets from Hartman and Burton. Penn State finally got on the board halfway through the third quarter off hard drives to the rim, but the ‘Cats responded with two threes and Penn State scored eight points in the paint as both offenses heated up.

However, Northwestern’s lead quickly slipped away as Penn State’s offense got going in a big way. The Nittany Lions got whatever they wanted and scored all of their 14 points in the last five minutes of the quarter, with the majority of them inside the paint and at the free-throw line. Burton and Marisa had 13 and 12, respectively, for their teams through three, but the ‘Cats trailed 42-41 going into the final period.

Penn State started the fourth with a full-court press and the ‘Cats again coughed up two early turnovers. Trailing by three, Brown drove and kicked it to Caileigh Walsh for a big triple that tied the game at 46 with just over seven minutes to go, and moments later, Melanie Daley converted an and-one jumper to give the ‘Cats their first lead of the fourth quarter.

Penn State pulled ahead 52-49 with only four minutes to go after two big buckets from Ali Brigham, but after the ‘Cats forced a jump ball and Satterwhite nailed a contested three, the game was tied. A cool elbow jumper from Walsh then put the Wildcats ahead by two, 56-54, with just over two minutes left in the game.

However, Kelly Jekot made a circus shot and a Penn State steal turned into a Kapinus and-one layup, putting the Nittany Lions back up 57-54 with under a minute to go. Burton managed to get a steal off Kapinus, and Courtney Shaw grabbed her 13th rebound of the night and converted the putback, cutting the lead to one with 13 seconds to go.

The Wildcats called one last timeout after two free throws from Marisa put the ‘Cats down three once more. Burton then drew a foul on a three-point attempt with nine seconds remaining, but she was off on the first, made the second and intentionally missed the third free throw in an attempt to get another possession. Kapinus secured the rebound and Penn State and Marissa drilled two more free throws to put Penn State up four, ultimately sealing Northwestern’s fate in the loss.

Northwestern returns to action on Sunday when they travel to College Park to face Maryland at noon C.T.