After getting blown out against Notre Dame last Wednesday, the ‘Cats (2-2, 0-0 B1G) clawed back to .500, beating Southern Illinois (0-3, 0-0 MVC) 84-69 on Saturday afternoon.
Northwestern put up a season high 84 points led by a 24-point, four-rebound and four-assist effort from Caileigh Walsh as well as a 10-point, 12-rebound double-double by veteran Courtney Shaw. Sydney Wood added 13 points too as Northwestern really got its offense kickstarted for the first time this season.
For Southern Illinois, Promise Taylor had 20 points and five rebounds, while Ashley Jones added 14 points and three rebounds to keep the Salukis in the game.
The ‘Cats flew out to a quick 9-0 lead, with aggressive offensive play by Walsh and Jillian Brown. Northwestern also turned good defense into good offense, getting out in transition and beating the Salukis down the court.
Southern Illinois responded, however, quickly putting Taylor in the game and feeding the 6-foot-5 center inside for good looks at the basket.
But the pace of the ‘Cats defense was too much for Southern Illinois. Northwestern made the Salukis uncomfortable offensively, limiting them to shooting under 30% in the first frame.
To end the first quarter, Northwestern guard Caroline Lau used her explosiveness off the dribble to ball fake past her defender and finish with her right hand at the rim to go into the second quarter with a 25-13 lead.
In the second period, it was more of the same from the ‘Cats. Walsh feasted from everywhere, stretching the floor with her three ball, while also utilizing her size and touch at the rim to finish inside the paint.
The ‘Cats also continued to stress attacking the paint. Wood used her probing dribble to get good looks at the rim, while also setting up the offense by kicking the ball out to her teammates for good looks.
With the ball movement humming, the ‘Cats shot the lights out in the second quarter, shooting 71% from the field and 67% from downtown. To cap it off, Wood heaved a last second buzzer beating effort from deep to send the ‘Cats into the locker room with a commanding 52-34 lead.
Coming back from the break, the Salukis turned on the defensive intensity down 18. Jaidynn Mason and Jones hounded Northwestern’s guards forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. Jones led the charge, finishing at the rim a couple times while cashing in from downtown to cut the lead to 12.
With the momentum swinging back towards the Salukis, Northwestern’s bigs slowed the game down for the ‘Cats. Both Shaw and Walsh got to the line, helping grow the Northwestern lead as Coach McKeown opted to put Melannie Daley and Laya Hartman in the game towards the end of the third quarter.
Both guards made impacts on the score sheet, as Hartman ran down the court in the dying seconds of the quarter to cash in on an and-one layup to give the ‘Cats a 70-51 lead heading into the 4th.
To open up the scoring in the final frame, Walsh made her second three of the day, while adding two layups over Taylor to secure her career high of 24 points. Walsh was a constant force against the Salukis, as her offensive game was something the ‘Cats kept coming back to time and time again.
Up 20 points with five minutes remaining, the ‘Cats rode the wave to a 84-69 victory.
Although Northwestern got out-rebounded on the glass, the Wildcats found their shooting against the Salukis after struggling to put the ball in the basket all season.
Erupting for a season high 84 points, the ‘Cats played strong defense too, limiting SIU’s offense to what seemed like one threat at a time and responding in the third quarter with improved defensive pressure when the Salukis went on a little run.
Coming off the feel good win, Northwestern will try to win two in a row for the first time this season when they face Niagara at home on Tuesday.