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Rapid Reaction: Northwestern falls apart late, drops 76-65 battle to Penn State

The home-court magic almost struck twice in 24 hours.

Northwestern Athletics/@nuwbball

At least this game was closer than expected.

Northwestern (7-12, 2-6 B1G) fell to Penn State (14-5, 5-3 B1G) 76-65 as its offense collapsed in the fourth quarter. Caileigh Walsh led the charge with 17 points and 12 rebounds on 6-of-12 shooting, and Melannie Daley added 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting.

Ali Brigham won the tip for the Lady Lions, but Ashley Owusu couldn’t capitalize on a straight-on three. After a blown layup by NU guard Casey Harter on the other end, Penn State guard Shay Ciezki canned a shot from deep to make it 3-0, but Maggie Pina responded for the ‘Cats with a three of her own.

For the Lady Lions, Brigham worked her way inside for an easy up-and-under to make it 5-3. Not to be outmaneuvered, Walsh flew in for two close shots of her own to put the ‘Cats up 7-6. With five minutes to go in the opening quarter, Owusu canned another three to put the Lady Lions up 10-7.

Coming off the media timeout, Chanaya Pinto sank two free throws to inflate Penn State’s lead to 15-7. After getting double-teamed, Paige Mott found Daley for an easy lay-in at the rim to cut NU’s deficit to six, ending PSU’s 9-0 run. However, the Lady Lions struck right back as Makenna Marisa found nothing but nylon on a three, making it 18-9. With just over a minute left, Harter swiped the ball and swung it to Daley for a bunny to make it 21-11, and Hailey Weaver found the bottom of the net as time expired, cutting NU’s deficit to 10 after the first quarter.

Owusu opened the second frame with a silky midrange jumper for the Lady Lions. On the other end, Mott slashed through the defense for an easy layup, making it 25-15. With six minutes left in the half, Lau found a streaking Daley for a shot at the hoop, making it 29-19; on the next possession, Daley created her own offense, sinking a midrange bucket.

Off the media timeout, Harter hit Daley for a fadeaway jumper, cutting Penn State’s lead to eight. With under four to go, Walsh made a bunny off a slick feed from Jasmine McWilliams, A few possessions later, Owusu coughed the ball up, and McWilliams hit a layup of her own to shrink NU’s deficit back to six.

With just over a minute to go, the ‘Cats sprinted down the floor, but Leilani Kapinus denied McWilliams of an easy shot at the rim. Off the inbound, Walsh got hacked and made two shots at the charity stripe to make it 35-30. 30 seconds later, Lau heaved another full-court pass to Maggie Pina, who hit both free throws to cut Penn State’s lead to four. As the teams entered the locker room, the ‘Cats found themselves down 38-32.

The Wildcats shot just 41.4% from the field in the first 20 minutes of action. Daley led the team with 10 points on a perfect first half while Walsh chipped in nine points of her own. NU shot just 1-of-7 from deep, while Penn State went 4-of-12 from the same distance.

To open the third quarter, Brigham muscled her way to the rim to make it 40-32. On the other end, McWilliams set up Walsh for an effortless lay-in. One possession later, Lau canned a high-arcing three to slash Penn State’s lead to 40-37, and after an offensive foul by the Lady Lions, Harter ran the whole floor before hitting a floater, knotting the game at 41-41. A few possessions later, Pina took advantage of a five-on-four, sinking a corner three to give the ‘Cats a three-point lead and cap off a 12-1 run.

With 4:21 remaining in the frame, Owusu bullied her way to the rim and hit a free throw to put Penn State up 48-44. On the other end, Lau swung the rock to a waiting Weaver for a three from the right corner. Lau got hers on the next possession, beating the shot clock with a runner to tie the game at 49-49.

With three to go in the quarter, Weaver found a wide-open Walsh at the rim; seconds later, Marisa hit a layup of her own to put Penn State up 53-51, and Marisa canned a three from straight away a minute later, making it 57-51 for the Lady Lions. In the last possession of the frame, Walsh spun on the baseline for a quick shot at the basket to put the ‘Cats within four.

To begin the final 10 minutes, Lau fired a cross-court pass to Pina for another corner three, making it 57-56, and on Penn State’s next trip down the court, Lau stripped the ball and ran the court for an easy layup to put the ‘Cats up by one. However, with 7:19 remaining, Marisa sunk a three, and Tay Valladay muscled inside for a layup to make it 62-58.

With 5:28 remaining, Lau heaved a prayer from deep that found the bottom of the net, but on the other end, Kapinus fired back to keep Penn State’s lead at four. With under three remaining, Ciezki canned a three from the left wing to put the Lady Lions up 70-63. After another midrange jumper from Owusu, the ‘Cats were looking at a nine-point deficit with less than two to go. NU tried to press the Lady Lions in the last 90 seconds, but it was too little too late as the Nittany Lions closed out a 75-65 victory.

The ‘Cats will travel to Bloomington for a road clash against No. 14 Indiana on Sunday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 1 p.m. CT, and the game will be streamed on B1G+.