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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern falls to Michigan 77-66 in first conference game

The ‘Cats will need to rebound after an 0-2 road trip.

@umichwbball / Twitter

For the first time this season, Northwestern gave a ranked opponent a scare, but still could not finish off the upset.

After a 66-50 loss against Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Northwestern (4-4, 0-1 B1G) was searching for a bounce back victory against No. 17 Michigan (9-0, 1-0 B1G), but narrowly lost to the Wolverines by a score of 77-66.

Leila Phelia and Emily Kiser led the way for the Wolverines offensively with 18 points each on 7-of-12 and 3-of-9 shooting, respectively. Phelia added five rebounds, while Kiser had eight boards and made all 12 of her free throws.

Northwestern’s offensive attack was balanced, as four scorers reached double figures. Jillian Brown led the ‘Cats with 17 points and five rebounds on 6-of-16 shooting. Caileigh Walsh also added 12 points and five blocks, while Melannie Daley and Sydney Wood each had 10 points on 5-of-7 and 4-of-7 shooting, respectively.

The ‘Cats started off the game slow. After two minutes of play, Northwestern had three turnovers and failed to even put a shot up. The ‘Cats did not score until Kaylah Rainey drained a three-pointer at the 6:37 mark in the first quarter.

After Northwestern’s 3:23 scoring drought to open up the game, the ‘Cats quickly went on a 6-0 run behind threes from Rainey and Caileigh Walsh to take a 6-3 lead.

Northwestern took a four-point lead with a little over a minute left in the first quarter, while Michigan was in the middle of a 3:11 scoring drought. Both teams finished off the quarter strong, combining for ten points (five for each team) in the last 1:18 of the period, as the ‘Cats took a 14-13 lead into the second quarter.

While Northwestern started off the second quarter cold from the field — the ‘Cats made two of their first seven — Michigan got hot. The Wolverines made four of their first six shots in the second quarter to take a four-point lead toward the middle of the quarter.

With three minutes left in the second quarter, it was 26-26, with both teams making five of their last seven field goals. Melannie Daley made a great impact off the bench, hitting her first three shots from midrange to lead NU’s offensive attack.

Both Northwestern and Michigan ended the half on scoring droughts of over two-and-a-half minutes, with the Wildcats missing their final six shots of the half. Michigan was shooting 32.9% from beyond the arc heading into this game, but Northwestern held the Wolverines to 2-of-9 shooting on three-pointers in the first half.

Northwestern trailed 28-26 at the end of a relatively even half. Michigan shot 11-of-28 from the field, while Joe McKeown’s squad shot 11-of-29.

The ‘Cats defense was strong in the first half. Michigan entered the game shooting 49.3% from the field, and had only failed to tally 30 points in the first half of a game once this season.

To start the third quarter, Michigan followed up two made free throws by Kiser with a Phelia steal and Cameron Williams layup to build its largest lead of the game at six points. However, Northwestern scored five straight points to bring Michigan’s lead down to just one.

Michigan extended its lead to 36-31, but Walsh responded with two threes to spark a 6-0 Northwestern run as the ‘Cats took their first lead of the second half.

With the game tied at 40, Michigan scored five quick points, forcing McKeown to use his first timeout of the second half.

After Michigan took a 48-40 lead, Northwestern responded with a 5-0 run to narrow the Wolverines’ lead back down to three points. Greta Kampschroeder knocked down a three with under a minute left in the third quarter to end Northwestern’s run, giving the Wolverines a six-point lead heading into the fourth.

An intentional foul was called on Williams and Northwestern took advantage, as Jillian Brown knocked down both free throws and made a layup to cut the lead to just two. Walsh then knocked down a jumper to cap off a 6-0 Northwestern run and tie the game at 51.

After tying the game at 53, the Wolverines went on an 8-0 run of their own to take a 61-53 lead with just over four minutes left in the game.

It looked like the ‘Cats were quietly trending toward their second consecutive loss, but Northwestern forced multiple turnovers in just 34 seconds en route to a 6-0 run, which brought Michigan’s lead down to just two.

The Wolverines fought back though, as Maddie Nolan drained a three to extend Michigan’s lead to seven with a little over two minutes left.

As Northwestern tried to mount a comeback, Leigha Brown stole the ball from Walsh, taking it coast-to-coast for an and-one layup off her own steal. Michigan finished the game on a 16-7 run.

Northwestern lost this game because of a defensive breakdown in the second half. After being held to a season-low 28 points in the first half, Michigan put up 49 points in the second half.

The Wolverines scored at will against Northwestern’s defense, shooting 14-of-23 from the field (60.9%). They also got to the free throw line often in the second half, knocking down 17 of their 18 free throw attempts.

Northwestern’s offense was productive in the second half, but it was not nearly enough to make up for the struggles on the defensive end.

After an unsuccessful road trip, Northwestern will turn its attention to a game against DePaul at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday at 2 p.m. CT.