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Rapid Reaction: Wildcats scorch rims and visitors in 87-69 blowout over Omaha

Hitting 40% of your shots from beyond the arc makes winning very easy.

@nuwbball / Twitter

Well, if it wasn’t clear enough on Thursday night, the Wildcats have an offense.

Northwestern (2-0, 0-0 B1G) defeated Omaha (1-2, 0-0 Summit) by a score of 87-69 on Sunday afternoon in a game that belonged to the ‘Cats almost from the jump. The Wildcats jumped out to a 17-0 lead to open the game, and UNO never got closer than 12 after that.

Melannie Daley was once again the leader for the Wildcats, erupting for 21 points on an astounding 10-for-11 shooting mark. There were also four other Northwestern players in double figures: Hailey Weaver had 15, Paige Mott had 14, and Caileigh Walsh and Caroline Lau both chipped in 11 each.

For the visitors from Omaha, Katie Keitges led the way with 18 points (on 6-for-9 three-point shooting!) but only had one other teammate (Deanay Watson) score over 10 points. The Mavericks were very inefficient offensively, shooting just 35% from the field and committing a staggering 20 turnovers.

The Wildcats got off to a hot start, with Daley knocking in a midrange jumper. It was the kick-starter to a 10-0 run that saw the Wildcats block a pair of Maverick shots and force a timeout just over two-and-a-half minutes in.

Daley canned another jumper from the same spot a minute after the timeout, extending the lead to 12. On the ensuing possession, the stingy Northwestern defense forced a shot clock violation, a microcosm of how the game had gone for Omaha to that point. The Wildcats extended the lead to 17-0 before the Mavericks were able to put a point on the scoreboard. And even that was on a free throw from UNO center Lucy Ghaifan just over five minutes into the contest.

The game got a lot sloppier after that. While both sides got more points on the board, the first quarter was one marred by giveaways. The two teams combined for 12 turnovers in the first seven minutes and 15 overall in the first frame. When the dust settled, Northwestern led 24-8, behind seven points from Weaver and six apiece from Daley and Mott.

To start the second quarter, graduate transfer Maggie Pina earned the first points of her Northwestern career with a deep three. It was after that that the visitors woke up, with an Alison Stephens three building a quick 7-0 run for the Mavericks. About a minute later, Walsh picked up her third foul of the first half and had to leave the game.

Despite the adversity, the Wildcats responded well. Northwestern hit five of its first eight shots before the media timeout, with four points coming from the hot hand of Daley. Walsh also had five points in the quarter before getting into foul trouble, meaning that with just under four minutes to play in the first half, Northwestern led by 20.

The turnovers continued to plague both teams as halftime neared. Through 20 minutes, the two squads combined for 23 turnovers. The main difference was the shooting: Northwestern shot 19-for-37 in the first half (a 51% clip), while UNO struggled to a 6-of-29 mark (29%). A UNO field goal drought that neared five minutes to close the first half helped the Wildcats build a major 46-24 lead heading into the locker rooms.

Both offenses raced out to a hot start in the third quarter, with both teams combining to hit eight straight shots. The scoring spurt included a pair of short jumpers from Walsh, as well as a pair of three-pointers by UNO’s Keitges. The nets were almost completely scorched on Omaha’s end, with the Mavericks hitting their first six shots of the quarter to cut the deficit to 15.

Once again, the Wildcats responded. Mott and Daley fueled a 6-0 run that pushed the lead to 60-39 with five minutes remaining in the third frame. After that, the scoring went back and forth, with both teams shooting above 50% from the field in the frame. The quarter ended with the Mavericks snapping a two-minute scoring drought to cut the lead back to 20 points. The hot shooting was encouraging for Omaha, but neither team could buy a stop, leading to 46 combined points in the quarter.

The hot shooting continued in the final frame, at least for the home squad. Northwestern went 3-of-5 to open the fourth quarter, including a pair of three pointers, building a 25-point lead and forcing a UNO timeout with seven minutes to play.

The timeout seemed to work, as UNO erupted on a 9-0 run. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, it was far too little far too late, as they were still down 16 even with the run. And by that point, most of the bench players on either side were in, so the last five minutes were merely a formality.

The result was made even clearer when the Mavericks closed the game having made one of their final 11 shots. Northwestern didn’t score that much over the final five minutes either, but it didn’t need to. After two games, the offense has tallied 179 points for an average of just under 90 per game.

Northwestern will head on the road for the first time this year on Wednesday to take on No. 10 Notre Dame in South Bend. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.