The Northwestern women’s basketball team celebrated National Girls & Women in Sports Day against Ohio State on Sunday, but ultimately fell short of victory in a 59-52 losing effort.
Head coach Joe McKeown lamented the outcome in yet another game in which the Wildcats came within points of overtaking a Big Ten rival. Despite the team’s best effort on the defensive end , Northwestern (11-13, 3-8) allowed the Buckeyes to score 36 points in the paint.
Ohio State’s sophomore guard Tayler Hill dropped in 16 of those points. Hill dominated the Buckeyes’ offense, scoring 26 points in all. Although the Wildcats’ game plan was to contain Hill as much as possible, freshman forward Alex Cohen said they couldn’t get to her fast enough.
“Each team we play, we have to see who’s their best player,” Cohen said. “We were looking to contain her. We just couldn’t pull that out.”
Hill may have scored almost half of Ohio State’s points, but Northwestern did not allow even one three-pointer the entire game. Cohen, who had a solid game off the bench, scoring three points and getting eight rebounds, was “excited to hear” that the team contained the three-point shot. It is an area the team has been working on at every practice, Cohen said.
Defensively, however, Northwestern ran into trouble rebounding, even though it started the first half strong on the boards. The ‘Cats allowed Ohio State to get 15 offensive rebounds and 6 second-chance points.
Freshman forward Maggie Lyon was one of the bright spots for the ’Cats. She had a great shooting day, sinking five shots from behind the 3-point line and shooting 57.1 percent from the field. This showing came on a sub-par shooting day for the team as a whole, which only shot 42.9 percent in the paint.
McKeown pointed to the team’s poor shooting as the root of its problems against the Buckeyes, rather than its defense.
Northwestern had problems on offense as well. The ’Cats turned the ball over 20 times and allowed the Buckeyes to score 19 points off Northwestern mistakes. Ohio State ran remarkably fast in transition, scoring 14 fast-break points. In such a close game, the turnovers proved costly.
Despite a disappointing result, McKeown and Lyon were both proud their team participated in the National Girls and Women in Sports Day, which attracted an astonishingly high 2,507 attendees to the game. Much of the audience was comprised of young girls who played on local sports teams and their families.
“I want to reach out to people at Northwestern,” McKeown said. “It was a great day for our players to be a part of that.”
Both teams wore specially designed pink uniforms, as well as pink headbands, socks, sneakers and warm-up T-shirts, to support breast cancer awareness. Right down to the referee’s pink whistles and the Northwestern cheerleaders’ pink pompoms, breast cancer awareness proved to be a central theme of Sunday’s game.
“We’re blessed to play for great school and great program,” Cohen said. “Women’s sports have come such a long way. We need to keep fighting for that.”
Even head coach Joe McKeown sported a pink shirt under his purple sweater vest to show his support for his team’s involvement in the nation-wide celebration.
“What a great atmosphere to play in today,” McKeown said. “Hopefully, we can recreate that a lot.”