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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern snaps six-game losing streak, beats Bradley 86-66

First win in a month.

@nuwbball on Twitter

A much-needed win.

Northwestern (4-7, 0-1 B1G) snapped its six-game losing streak with an 86-66 victory over Bradley (4-6, 0-0 MVC).

Caleigh Walsh has a team-high 19 points for the ‘Cats, with Caroline Lau and Paige Mott also chipping in 17 and 16 points. Defensively, Melannie Daley notched five steals and three rebounds to compliment her 13-point performance. For Bradley, Alex Rouse, Reagan Barkema and Isis Fitch all scored 15 points.

Northwestern controlled the opening tip, and Lau quickly found Daley for an open mid-range jumper to start the festivities. Bradley’s Rouse got to her spot on the first possession for the Braves, hitting a jumper of her own to even the score.

It would take another two minutes before either side found any semblance of rhythm on offense. Daley flexed her defensive muscle for the ‘Cats with a block, but a missed jumper and a turnover from Lau contributed to some early offensive struggles.

With 7:30 to play in the first quarter, Barkema connected on a wide-open three to break the scoring drought. Barkema’s shooting proved to be contagious, as Lau hit back-to-back triples to wake up Northwestern’s dormant offense.

After a flurry of back-and-forth basketball that saw the Braves take a 13-12 lead, Caleigh Walsh finally checked in for the ‘Cats, but the junior was unable to provide a spark for the home side. A pair of defensive lapses from Northwestern culminated in another wide-open look from deep for Barkema, which she converted to widen the Braves’ lead to eight. Head coach Joe McKeown looked animated as he called a timeout.

The ‘Cats looked a lot more cohesive after the break, with Lau feeding Walsh down low for a pair of tough layups. Northwestern was able to cut the deficit to five to close out the first quarter.

Walsh was able to carry that momentum into the second period, putting up six points within the first three minutes to put Northwestern back in front, 28-26. Daley kept the scoring going for the ‘Cats with two transition layups to help bolster the lead, but NU continued to struggle defensively. Bradley’s Fitch sliced through the Northwestern zone to hit a layup, and the senior hit a three on the ensuing possession to help the Braves retake the lead.

The Wildcats responded to the Fitch triple by upping their defensive pressure, employing a full-court press to force five turnovers in three minutes. Northwestern only turned one of those turnovers into points — an and-one layup in transition from Daley — but her acrobatics were enough to tie the score at 34.

Barkema broke the deadlock with her fourth three of the afternoon, but the ‘Cats were not able to retake the lead before the half. Northwestern turned the ball over twice in the final two minutes of the second quarter, and Bradley took a 39-38 lead into the break.

Barkema fired from deep on the first possession of the second half, but blissfully for the ‘Cats, her hot hand appeared to have cooled off at halftime. Northwestern controlled the action after the miss from the Braves’ sharpshooter.

The Wildcats found production from five different scorers as they dominated the first five minutes of the third quarter. Lau capped a furious 13-0 Northwestern run with two free throws, and after a much-needed Bradley timeout, NU led 55-42.

The Braves were able to cut into the Northwestern lead after the timeout, buoyed by an open three from Ru Abo Hashesh, but buckets down low from Lau, Walsh and freshman forward Crystal Wang kept the ‘Cats firmly in front. Northwestern headed into the fourth with an 11-point advantage, dominating the third quarter 27-15.

Abo Hashesh and Fitch brought Bradley back within seven in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter, but Northwestern’s offense showed no signs of slowing down. Mott hit a tough layup and drew a foul on back-to-back possessions, forcing the Braves to bring another forward into the paint to contain her. With more space around the perimeter, Mott found Wang who connected on a rather wide-open three.

That Wang triple extended Northwestern’s lead into double-digits once again, but this time, Bradley was not able to respond. Mott continued to bully the Braves in the post to the tune of seven points in the fourth quarter as the ‘Cats pulled away to earn a much-needed 20-point victory.

Northwestern will look to build off this momentum on Thursday when it takes on Temple in Philadelphia. Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. CT, and the game will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.