The Northwestern women’s team maintained its undefeated record Tuesday as it moved to 3-0 on the season with a 61-45 win over Howard (0-4). After keeping the score close early in the first half, Northwestern jumped out to a 26-14 lead heading into the locker room. In the second half, the Wildcats only outscored Howard by only four points, but held on to their lead to claim their fourth victory of the year. This win will hopefully give the team the momentum it needs to face Yale (1-3) on Wednesday.
What went right
Northwestern wasn’t led in scoring by head coach Joe McKeown’s seasoned seniors. Rather, it was the freshmen that really shined in Monday’s game. Forward Maggie Lyon scored 16 points, tying with senior forward/center Dannielle Diamant to lead all Northwestern scorers. Lyon made four of Northwestern’s six 3-pointers, three of which were shot from the same spot on the court. McKeown should be very glad that he will have her not only for the rest of this season – and for the next three seasons as well.
Inside play from “the bigs”
In addition to Diamant, the other forwards played extremely well down low. Senior Kendall Hackney scored 15 points and senior Kate Popovec chipped in four. The team’s strategy seemed to be to get the ball inside to the forwards. Since Howard’s tallest players are the 6-foot-1-inch sisters Nicole and Portia Deterville and they only played for a combined 29 minutes, this was a smart approach to this game. Sophomore point guard Karly Roser, senior guard Inesha Hale and freshman forward Lauren Douglas racked up their assists mostly from lobbing passes over the heads of the Howard defenders and let the “bigs” go to work.
Stellar ball movement
Not only did Northwestern’s offense outscore Howard, it looked good doing it. The Wildcats’ offensive transitioning was beautiful and, to put it plainly, they made it look easy. Roser lead Northwestern with nine assists. Overall the Wildcats had more assists than Howard, leading the Bison 19-11.
What went wrong
Northwestern committed a whopping 20 turnovers compared to Howard’s nine.
At the end of the first quarter, Howard scored no points off of turnovers. By the end of the game, they had 11 points off takeaways. Even though they ultimately had success underneath, Northwestern gave the ball away many times while trying to force passes that weren’t there. Roser led Northwestern with nine assists, but she also led the team in turnovers with eight. Last year as a freshman, Roser averaged 4.3 turnovers per game, so this is not a new problem but it is one that the Wildcats have to fix, especially before Big Ten play begins.
Problems with defensive shifting
Towards the end of the shot clock, Howard’s ball movement got Northwestern out of position, leaving players wide open all over the court. Thankfully, Howard’s field goal percentage was a shockingly low 22.4 percent. But, Howard’s senior guard Cheyenne Curley-Payne shot 3-for-5 on three-pointers and freshman guard Imani Bailey scored six points from behind the arc. Increased communication and court awareness are the keys to fixing this issue.
With the height of Northwestern’s offense, especially its starters, there aren’t many instances when the ‘Cats should lose the rebound battle. In this game, however, Northwestern recorded seven offensive rebounds to Howard’s 13. And although the did win the overall rebounding battle 42-30, they also allowed Howard to have the opportunity to shoot 11 second-chance shots. Northwestern only got five of those same chances. The Wildcats has to do a better job of blocking out on shots and of holding on to the ball when they get their hands on it.