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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern falls prey to slow start, falls 90-65 to DePaul for sixth-straight loss

Once again, dominant runs from the opposition doomed the ‘Cats from the start.

@DePaulWBBHoops / Twitter

Entering their matchup against the DePaul Blue Demons, Northwestern was desperate for a win. It had just dropped its fifth straight game in its Big Ten season opener on the road against Maryland three days prior. Taking on a competitive DePaul squad in downtown Chicago, head coach Joe McKeown would look to lead the ‘Cats to a quick start, hopefully propelling them to a much-needed victory.

Unfortunately for Northwestern, things would trend in the opposite direction during the early going, as a few dominant runs from DePaul sparked the Blue Demons (6-5, 0-0 Big East) to a 90-65 victory over the Wildcats (3-7, 0-1 B1G). Despite an offensive eruption from Northwestern in the second half, 18 first-half turnovers and a 26-point deficit at halftime proved to be too much to overcome.

Anaya Peoples led DePaul with 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting, adding seven rebounds, seven assists and four steals. Michelle Sidor and Katlyn Gilbert added 15 points apiece, with Sidor draining five of her six three-point attempts.

For NU, Melannie Daley and Casey Harter led the way with 13 points each. Caroline Lau also found her way into double figures, notching 10 points on an 4-of-6 shooting clip.

After the ‘Cats notched an early lead with a Paige Mott layup to open scoring just 12 seconds in, the Blue Demons began to dominate. For the next six-plus minutes, DePaul controlled the game on defense, keeping Northwestern off the board. When they weren’t turning the ball over, the ‘Cats were struggling from the field, missing six shots consecutively during the DePaul run.

It didn't help that the Blue Demons were starting to catch fire, sinking four straight field goal attempts. Two of those came from long range, as Sidor buried two triples en route to what ended up as an 18-0 run in the first quarter for DePaul. Although it was still very early in the contest, Northwestern was already in a deep hole.

As the first quarter turned over to the second, Northwestern briefly found its rhythm on offense. Daley beat the buzzer to conclude the first with a deep three-pointer — just her second of the season — and NU stayed hot to start the second, converting on each of its first three shots of the quarter. The ‘Cats had brought it down to a seven-point game with 7:43 remaining in the period thanks to consecutive makes from Caileigh Walsh, and it seemed like they had finally turned things around.

That would not turn out to be the case for Northwestern. The offensive success was short-lived, as the ‘Cats would fail to make another field goal the entire quarter, sinking just two free throws. Once again, DePaul got out to a monster 23-2 run to conclude the second quarter and take a 46-19 lead into the break, forcing turnovers left-and-right on the defensive end and refusing to miss on offense.

It ended the half shooting 10-of-15 from the field, and in total, forced 18 Northwestern turnovers. That’s right, Northwestern very nearly ended the first half with as many turnovers as they had points. Paired with its field-goal percentage that dipped below 40%, it was easy to see how the deficit had grown so large.

The Wildcats came out of the break looking much stronger on both ends. In just over six minutes of play, they had already surpassed their scoring total from the entire first half. They were shooting with more confidence, getting some takeaways on defense, and most importantly, limiting turnovers while they had the basketball. Caroline Lau particularly caught fire, as she scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the third quarter.

Throughout the entire period, Northwestern only turned it over only twice, as it ended up winning the third quarter 28-25. Still, its improvements made a minuscule dent in the gargantuan DePaul lead, as the ‘Cats still found themselves trailing by 25 heading into the fourth quarter.

The contest’s final frame got off to a slow start for both squads — neither hitting a field goal until almost three minutes in with a Jorie Allen three-pointer for DePaul. Toward the end of the quarter, McKeown rotated in some Northwestern bench options, as Crystal Wang and Alana Goodchild contributed for a combined eight points. They couldn’t cut into the lead any further, however, as they remained down 25 at the game’s conclusion.

Northwestern had an opportunity to break their losing streak against a beatable opponent on the road. Instead, it allowed a pair of huge first-half DePaul runs to dig it in a hole too deep to climb out of.

The Wildcats will head home to try and snap their six-game losing streak on Sunday afternoon against Bradley. Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. CT, and the game will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus.