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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern drops third straight, blown out 87-59 at No. 12 Maryland

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The ‘Cats sincerely missed the offensive presence of Caileigh Walsh.

@nuwbball on Twitter

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Now in late January, Northwestern’s postseason hopes are waning by the game.

In the Xfinity Center, the Wildcats (11-7, 3-4 B1G) were crushed by the No. 12 Maryland Terrapins (13-6, 5-3), 87-59 — easily its largest margin of defeat this season and its worst loss since falling to UMD in the 2021 Big Ten Tournament. With the defeat, the ‘Cats accomplished an undesired feat they hadn’t since 2018: losing three straight games.

Head coach Joe McKeown didn’t have freshman phenom Caileigh Walsh at his disposal; despite participating in a Saturday practice, the forward did not suit up on game-day, making this her first missed contest of the year. Sans Walsh, Northwestern struggled to put points on the board, scoring under 60 points for the third straight game. Conversely, Maryland put on a clinic from behind the arc, going 18-for-31 and proving how versatile its offense really is.

Katie Benzan and Ashley Owusu — who slotted in at No. 10 on ESPN’s latest ranking of the top 25 players in collegiate women’s basketball — propelled the Terps to a win, combining for 32 points. For the purple and white, Veronica Burton, Courtney Shaw and Lauryn Satterwhite posted nine points each; no Wildcat reached double figures. One positive note: Anna Morris collected six points in six minutes off the bench.

The ‘Cats got out to an early advantage via a steal by Satterwhite that led to a Burton start-stop layup. From there, though, Maryland caught fire. While NU missed four straight field goals, UMD nailed three after three, with Benzan and Shyanne Sellers giving the Terps a 6-0 run.

Shaw, a Maryland native, finally put an end to Northwestern’s scoring drought, chipping in a tough layup. Yet Maryland’s Chloe Bibby converted a corner three to respond, opening back up a 9-4 lead. McKeown’s squad remained resilient, as Laya Hartman — making her second career start — and Burton hit jumpers to knot things at nine in the first.

Minutes later, however, the Terrapins couldn’t miss yet again. Sellers hit another triple and Owusu knocked down a long two-pointer before Satterwhite made a three to cut the Terps’ lead to 14-12, but Bibby and Angel Reese were good on layups, putting UMD ahead, 18-12.

To start the second quarter, both teams combined to miss their first three shots, including a Burton layup attempt rejected by Sellers. After the block, Paige Mott fouled Reese, who made both free throws, making it 19-14 in favor of the Terrapins. Sellers continued her scalding play on the next possession, stealing a bad pass from Jillian Brown and taking it all the way. The freshman then kicked it to Owusu, who cashed in a deep two to make it 23-14 in favor of Maryland.

With 6:53 left in the second quarter, Morris entered the ballgame. Promptly thereafter, she hit a turnaround hook shot, but UMD proceeded to make its fifth three of the half as it created a 10-point lead.

Once Owusu and Benzan added threes of their own, the floodgates truly started to open. The ‘Cats had four turnovers in the second quarter and scored just five points in the final five minutes of the half. NU shot just 32 percent from the field in the first half, while the Terps went 50 percent overall and 53 percent from three to enter the break up 39-24.

The third quarter was a sloppy one for both units, as the teams combined to start 3-for-14 and combined for five turnovers. Brown made difficult layups on consecutive possessions for the ‘Cats, but Maryland maintained a lead of nearly 20 points throughout the frame, even getting a friendly roll on a buzzer-beating three to end the period.

In the last 10 minutes, NU didn’t erase the deficit. Maryland coach Brenda Frese inserted several of her backups around the 7-minute mark as the Terps put an emphatic end to their two-game losing streak.

The ‘Cats return to Evanston on Friday for yet another ranked matchup — this time, against Caitlin Clark and the No. 25 Iowa Hawkeyes at 7 p.m. C.T.