Defense and rebounding win games. Unfortunately, Northwestern struggled mightily in both categories Sunday afternoon.
The Wildcats (3-5, 0-0 B1G) fell to visiting Georgetown (7-1, 0-0 Big East), 82-58, in a game where the home squad led for just 16 seconds. The Hoyas utterly dominated Northwestern on the glass (especially in the first half), winning the rebound battle, 35-25. That included 13 offensive rebounds, which led to 13 second-chance points. Georgetown also got to the line far more often, shooting 28 free throws compared to just 16 for Northwestern.
The ‘Cats’ offense was led by Caroline Lau and Caileigh Walsh, who scored 11 and 13 points, respectively. Hailey Weaver also made a major two-way impact, scoring seven points and adding three steals. No Wildcat garnered more than four rebounds.
As for the visitors, Kelsey Ransom and Victoria Rivera led the way. Ransom had 16 points and Rivera also added 16, 12 of which came in the opening quarter. Graceann Bennett also had herself a day, scoring 15 points and grabbing six rebounds. Brianna Scott was crucial for Georgetown off the bench, chipping in 13 points and eight rebounds.
In a surprising move, coach Joe McKeown left Walsh on the bench to start in favor of sophomore forward Alana Goodchild. The Wildcats won the tip, and just over a minute into the game, Goodchild opened the scoring. The 6-foot-2-inch Australian, making her first career start, canned a midrange jumper from the left side to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
However, Georgetown would quickly respond. The visitors went on a 14-0 run over a three minute span that included four three-pointers from Rivera, one of the starting guards. Her 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting helped the Hoyas build a 14-4 lead at the timeout midway through the first quarter. One of the reasons for the big lead was domination on the glass. Georgetown totaled five offensive rebounds in the first five minutes; Northwestern grabbed four total rebounds in that span.
However, the game would soon flip thanks to Lau. A three-minute field goal drought for Georgetown combined with consecutive threes from Lau cut the lead to six, making it 18-11. The Hoyas were able to keep their cushion thanks to an abundance of free throws (8-of-10 in the opening frame), and through the first 10 minutes, they held a 22-13 lead.
The Wildcats’ woes continued in the second quarter, which Georgetown opened on a 7-0 run to stretch the lead to 16. Northwestern did claw back to within 13 thanks to a Maggie Pina three-pointer after multiple offensive rebounds, but an and-one from Georgetown’s Ransom on Paige Mott (Mott’s third foul of the afternoon) stymied the momentum.
Walsh tried to get the Wildcats back in the game with back-to-back buckets, but the defense simply couldn’t get a stop or a rebound. With just over three minutes to play in the first half, a Ransom jumper pushed the Georgetown lead to 18, the largest of the game at that point. The basket also came off an offensive rebound — Georgetown’s 12th of the game to that point.
The fouling and rebounding issues continued to plague Northwestern as halftime approached. Through 20 minutes, four Wildcats had multiple fouls, and Georgetown was winning the rebounding battle, 22-12. The ‘Cats also closed the first half by going nearly four and a half minutes without a field goal, and the result was a 51-27 halftime deficit.
Ransom and Rivera led the way for the Hoyas, combining for 29 points on 9-of-20 shooting. The 12 offensive rebounds for Georgetown led to 13 second chance points, and the visitors were also 15-of-17 from the charity stripe in the first half. For Northwestern, Walsh, coming off the bench for just the 14th time in her 67-game career, led the way with eight points. Lau chipped in six and Goodchild added four, but the Wildcats were nonetheless in a massive hole with 20 minutes to play.
Northwestern came out of the locker room hot, dictating the pace of the game in a way it wasn’t able to in the first half. Through the first four minutes of the third quarter, Georgetown totaled just four points. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they totaled just six points over that same timeframe.
The offenses would quickly pick up after that, combining for 12 points in the ensuing two minutes. With the game moving at a frenetic pace, Northwestern was able to get plenty of scoring, but getting stops proved far more difficult. Despite turning to a full-court press and outscoring the Hoyas 20-16 in the third quarter, Northwestern still went into the final frame staring down a deficit of 67-47.
Thanks to the full-court press, the ‘Cats continued to chip away at the massive lead. A pair of Georgetown turnovers and six combined points from Walsh and Lau cut the deficit to just 15. However, Georgetown would soon snap its three-minute scoring drought, and a 9-0 Hoya run pushed the lead all the way to 24, buoyed by a four-minute scoring drought on Northwestern’s part.
The final three minutes of the game were marked by lots of misses and lots of near turnovers. Georgetown did a platoon swap to put its reserves in with 90 seconds to go, and the Hoyas were easily able to ride out an 82-58 victory.
Northwestern will be back in action on the road against Maryland at 12 p.m. central time next Sunday.