Caileigh Walsh moves up the court. She led the team in points against Michigan, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Wolverines on Saturday afternoon. Photo by AJ Anderson / North by Northwestern

The Northwestern Wildcats (8-19, 3-13 B1G) came into their second-to-last home game with hopes of breaking a four-game losing streak on Sunday afternoon. As they welcomed the Michigan Wolverines (17-11, 8-8 B1G), the only Big Ten team they had not played yet this season, they looked to put up a fight. However, they did not expect them to howl with dominance at Welsh Ryan Arena, giving them a 74-60 win.

Coming into this match both teams had suffered conference losses, NU against Nebraska (19-9, 11-6 B1G) 50-75 on Feb. 20 and Michigan against Michigan State (20-7, 10-6 B1G) 66-70 on Feb. 18.

As the first quarter was underway, the Wildcats fought to mark territory, with Michigan leading a 7-0 run the first two minutes of the game. An early struggle for them, who were starting to see how tactical Michigan would be. Third-year forward Caileigh Walsh, who scored a team-high 14 points this game, provided the first six points for NU through swift three-pointers, making it 9-6. Three minutes before a low-intensity first quarter came to an end, third-year guard Melannie Daley, who tallied 12 total points, tied the game up with her own three-pointer. While the ’Cats struggled to score against Michigan’s defensive line, the visitors also experienced their own moments of struggle, losing the ball and having unnecessary dribbling, but they managed to end the first ten minutes leading with a slim 14-12 scoring.

The second quarter began with NU at the line and graduate guard Maggie Pina going two-for-two in free throws, tying the game 14-14. However, the Wolverines were quick to pick up speed and began to rack up points, making it 19-14 with only one minute played.

One of NU’s biggest struggles this game was making points on the paint, as they missed a couple of close layups. Nevertheless, they managed to close the point gap many times throughout the game. With a three-pointer from Pina they brought the score to 26-28. The ’Cats were 5-10 in three-pointers during the first two quarters, compared to the Wolverines’ 3-12. Although the second quarter ended 30-28 in favor of an impressive Michigan side, NU had the potential to make a comeback after half time and crawl their way back up.

However, nothing turned out as planned.

The clock began to tick for the third quarter as Michigan brought surprises. Leading a 10-0 run just in the first minute, in part due to NU’s quick loss of possession, they were up 40-28. Continuing the party with a three-pointer by graduate guard Lauren Hansen, who scored a game-high 18 points, and an additional free throw from third-year guard Jordan Hobbs, the score was 44-28. The ’Cats did not expect to live a nightmare during the third quarter, but they did. At one point, Michigan led by a whopping 23 points (60-37). The ’Cats tried not to panic and looked for hope in any shot they could get, but Michigan showed fierce dominance in these 10 minutes, shooting as if they were in their own backyard. In a quarter that felt eternal, the buzzer would sound and the ’Cats would trail 44-60.

It was all or nothing in the fourth and final quarter. NU had no time to waste and with a much-needed duo between senior forward Paige Mott and Daley, what used to be a 23-point margin was now down to eight with things getting interesting at 52-60. However, Michigan wouldn’t let their guard down and after being scoreless the first four minutes of the quarter, they reminded the ’Cats of their presence with a three-pointer followed by a layup, leading 65-52. With not much time left, all NU could do was defend until the end.

Although the final score of 74-60 didn’t favor the ’Cats, they did learn how to be more intentional about their shots in the last half of the game, followed by plays that gave them crucial points when they were needed.

Their final home game of the season will be on Tuesday, Feb. 27 against No. 14 Indiana (22-4, 13-3 B1G), where they will hope to finish strong at Welsh Ryan Arena for Senior Day.

Thumbnail photo by AJ Anderson / North by Northwestern.