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Rapid Reaction: Caileigh Walsh leads the way for Northwestern in a sloppy 76-68 win against Southeastern Missouri

Much closer than it should have been.

Northwestern Athletics

Northwestern had a bit of the Sunday scaries.

After being thrashed in South Bend, Northwestern (3-1, 0-0 B1G) defeated Southeastern Missouri State 76-68. The ‘Cats trailed at the half but were able to pull away in the second half.

Walsh led NU with 27 points and 14 rebounds, and Melanie Daley aided Walsh with 17 points. Jaliyah Green led the Redhawks with 22 points.

The ‘Cats controlled the tip, and Paige Mott laid one in to open up the scoring. As the quarter carried on, both teams continued to trade buckets, but an and-one and ensuing lay-in from Caileigh Walsh gave the ‘Cats a 12-9 lead at the first media timeout.

Out of the break, Jaliyah Green hit a tough and-one layup but missed the free throw to bring the Redhawks within one. On the other end of the floor, Paige Mott took it hard to the rim and earned a foul, splitting a pair from the stripe.

Indiya Bowen and Walsh traded threes on the next two possessions, and a great steal from Melanie Daley led to a smooth transition bucket from Caroline Lau to extend the ‘Cats lead to four.

Walsh got stuffed at the rim, and Michaela Mayfield of the Redhawks hit a midrange jumper in transition to bring the Redhawks within two.

A Maggie Pina triple from the corner capped a 7-0 run for the ‘Cats to close out the first quarter with Northwestern leading 25-16. Joe McKeown’s squad was 3-3 from deep in the first, shooting 57% from the field.

Bowen kicked off the 2nd quarter with two threes of her own, and McKeown responded with a timeout. Bowen’s hot hand had the Redhawks within three. After the break, the Redhawks managed to stay hot from downtown, and some lackluster perimeter defense from the ‘Cats led to two wide-open triples from Southeast Missouri.

A Paige Mott layup was the only bucket from Northwestern with 5 minutes to play in the 2nd, and Jaliyah Green of the Redhawks hit a mid-range jumper in transition and a three from the top of the key to extend Southeast Missouri’s lead to six. Walsh broke the scoring drought for the ‘Cats with a much-needed three of her own, to bring Northwestern within one possession. With that triple, Walsh brought her first-half total to 16 points, but the ‘Cats trailed 33-30.

Green responded with another two of her own, and an ill-advised pass from Daley led to yet another Redhawks three to bring their lead to 8, this time from Megan Barton. Barton’s three capped a 16-3 run for Southeast Missouri, during a stretch where Northwestern turned the ball over five times. Two Maggie Pina free throws brought the score to 38-32, but Amiyah Buchanan responded with a layup of her own on the other end. Daley hit a mid-range jumper on the ensuing possession, breaking a four-and-a-half minute stretch without a field goal for Northwestern.

A seemingly rare missed jumper for Bowen at the buzzer marked the end of a second-quarter the ‘Cats would like to forget. Southeast Missouri outscored Northwestern 24-9, shooting a ridiculous 6 for 11 from downtown and earning a 40-34 lead at the break. The loudest cheers from the Welsh-Ryan faithful did not come after a ‘Cats bucket, but instead after saves from Northwestern field hockey’s Annabel Skubisz broadcasted live on the jumbotron as the ‘Cats lost a heartbreaker to North Carolina in the national championship.

Weaver opened the scoring in the second half with a three from the corner, and a free throw from Daley on the ensuing possession brought the ‘Cats back within two. McKeown’s squad came out of the half with increased urgency on the defensive end, forcing two bad shots and a shot-clock violation from the Redhawks on their first three possessions of the third quarter. Another Daley bucket later, and Northwestern once again found themselves even with Southeastern Missouri..

The offensive woes continued for the Redhawks after a timeout as Buchanan turned the ball over on the first possession after the break, but the ‘Cats were not able to capitalize on the offensive end. Both teams traded free throws on the next two possessions, bringing the score to 42-42 with 7 to play in the third.

Walsh continued to stuff the stat sheet in the third, finishing an acrobatic layup after a beautiful pass from Lau and converting two free-throws on back-to-back possessions. Those two buckets gave Northwestern a 46-42 lead, their first since early in the second quarter.

After a sloppy slew of possessions for both teams, Daejah Richmond got on the scoresheet for the Redhawks with a good finish on a contested layup, but Southeastern Missouri continued to have no answer for Daley. She scored eight points in two minutes for the ‘Cats, and — supplemented by a three from Lau — Northwestern found themselves with their largest lead of the afternoon, with the score at 57-48. Southeastern Missouri called a timeout to slow Northwestern’s momentum.

Abigail Stephens drained one from deep out of the break to bring the Redhawks within six, but Walsh responded with a layup of her own on the next possession. A foul from the junior put Southeastern Missouri on the line with a second left in the third quater, and Richmond converted 1 of 2 from the stripe. Lau’s half-court-heave fell well short, but Northwestern had to be happy with that third quarter effort after a lackluster first half. They led 59-52 going into the fourth.

Southeastern Missouri opened the scoring in the fourth quarter with a triple from Green, but the ‘Cats were able to respond quickly. Walsh hit a layup on the next possession and grabbed her 10th board of the game after a missed layup from Stephens. A Maggie Pina three later, and the ‘Cats led 64-56.

The Redhawks, however, showed no signs of going away, and after a smooth mid-range jumper from Daley extended the ‘Cats lead to 10, Alecia Doyle drained a crucial contested jumper from deep.

Walsh picked up her fourth foul on Northwestern’s next defensive possession, leaving McKeown with no choice but to take her out of the game. Doyle continued to stay hot for the Redhawks, draining a layup and a corner three on consecutive possessions to bring Southeastern Missouri within 2. Walsh checked back in for the ‘Cats after two minutes on the bench with the score at 66-64. Fortunately for Northwestern, the Redhawks cooled off with Walsh back in the game, missing four straight. Mott hit a layup, and Weaver swished a tough jumper from downtown to extend the ‘Cats lead to seven with 2:30 left in the fourth. Southeastern Missouri tried to mount a comeback, but Walsh and the ‘Cats proved to be too much for the Redhawks down the stretch, closing out a hard-fought 76-68 victory.

Northwestern will return to the court Wednesday against the No.12 Florida State Seminoles at the Ball Dawgs Classic in Las Vegas.