Wildcats fall to Big Ten foe Penn State

By Nader Ihmoud

Head Coach Joe McKeown said he could use a four-leaf clover or rosary beads following the Northwestern University Wildcats’ third straight loss overall to the 18th-ranked Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions, 77-63 on Feb. 12.

The Wildcats were celebrating National Girls and Women in Sports Day and supporting the fight against breast cancer by sporting pink uniforms, but Penn State put the game out of reach in the first half, outscoring Northwestern 41-25.

“It’s always good to get off to a good start,” said Penn State Head Coach Coquese Washington. “The pace was the pace that we wanted to play.”

The 16-point lead notched by the Lions in the first half was possible because of the team’s dominant performance in the paint and its fast break advantage.

The Wildcats were outscored 20-12 in the paint and 10-0 in fast break points in the first half.

Junior guard Alex Bentley led the Lions, scoring 18 points.

McKeown said Bentley’s performance displayed why he attempted to recruit her out of high school.

“Every time you score she has the ball right back at you, and it’s really hard [to defend],” McKeown said. “You don’t see that enough in our game, so it’s hard to defend and it’s hard to prepare for.”

Northwestern’s disadvantage took another hit as starting junior forward Dannielle Diamant did not play because of an injury.

“With [Diamant] not being able to play, it just really limits our offense and some of the things we can do,” McKoewn said.

The Wildcats were limited to 32 percent shooting by the Lions’ stifling defense. Kendall Hackney and Morgan Jones, who have respectively averaged 14 and 15 shot attempts per game this season, had 48 of their team’s 73 shots. They combined to shoot 29 percent against Penn State.

McKeown said Diamant usually takes 15–16 of her team’s shots and distributes shot attempts for her teammates.

“She’s been averaging close to 20 points a game,” he said. “Somebody had to take those shots.”

He went on to say that not having Diamant put a hold on the team’s fluidity and frequently had them forcing shots up with time expiring on the shot clock.

Alex Cohen, who replaced Diamant in the lineup, took three shots, scoring 6 points and grabbing four rebounds.

“Alex did a lot of good things for us tonight,” McKeown said. “[But] we’ve got to get her to be able to defend power post players like Penn State has.”

The Nittany Lions’ bigs, Mia Nickson and Nikki Green together scored 15 points.

Two of the Wildcats’ guards suffered injuries during the game. Senior Allison Mocchi was injured on the first play. The team also lost freshman Karly Roser late in the first half. She did not play in the second half.

Despite losing, McKeown was pleased with his team’s post-halftime effort.

“I thought we played really well the first 15 minutes of the second half,” McKeown said. “We outscored them in the second half [38-36]. Right now we’ll take small things to build on.”