First the bad news from Wednesday's win, which improved the Wildcats to 5-1. NU lost leading scorer Brittany Orban to what looked like an awful knee injury with 5:15 left in the first half. Orban went up for a layup, and her knee appeared to give out. She was in obvious pain on the floor and had to be helped to the locker room, as she couldn't put any weight on it. Coach Joe McKeown didn't have any update after the game on Orban's status going forward, other than to say, "I think she'll be OK."
If she's out for an extended absence, that will really test the Wildcats' depth. Orban, besides being a senior captain, was leading the team with 14 ppg and 6.6 rpg. She's been a huge force in the paint and has a real knack for being in the right place, with almost two-thirds of her rebounds being offensive boards. McKeown has played a pretty short bench so far this season, and the Wildcats are especially thin on the front line.
Orban did return to the sideline for the second half with her knee heavily iced. Here's hoping for a speedy recovery.
Now, to the game. We won! And Morgan Jones finally had the breakout game that we've all been waiting for, with 27 points and 11 rebounds. The highly touted freshman had struggled with her shot for much of the season, but against the Wolfpack, she went 9-15 from the floor, including 5-6 from behind the arc. She really stepped up in Orban's absence on both ends of the court and was every bit as dynamic as her preseason hype.
As for the rest of the team, well, it wasn't exactly a work of art, but a W is a W.
The Wildcats (now with two votes in the AP poll!) did their best to give this game away, with an astounding 29 turnovers. The turnovers into a pressure defense, those are at least somewhat understandable, but it's the unforced ones, of which there were many last night, that are the real forehead slappers. McKeown is always animated on the sideline, but last night's display was especially theatrical.
Fortunately, NC State suffered from its own case of the sloppies, turning the ball over 24 times themselves, and basketphobia, shooting a crappy 29.3%. Lay-ups, open threes, you name it, the Wolfpack bricked it.
The Wildcats took a 35-22 lead into halftime, leading at one point by 16. But the Wolfpack came out of the break determined, and they managed to cut the NU lead to just three, 50-47, with about 9 minutes left. Then Meghan McKeown hit a clutch three with the shot clock winding down, and then Jones scored the next six points, and the Wolfpack never threatened after that.
All in all, not the kind of game to hang your hat on, but sometimes in the course of a season, there are ugly games, and we'll take the win, especially against a BCS conference opponent. Karly Roser had the second double-double of her career, with 10 points and 10 assists, though she had some trouble finishing several layups. Kendall Hackney chipped in 14 points and 6 rebounds. Overall, NU shot 49.1% from the field. Oh, and this was NU's first ever win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Up next is the Wildcats' fourth straight BCS conference foe, as NU will hit the road to take on Missouri on Saturday in the Big Ten/Big-12 Wait-How-Many-Teams-Do-We-Have-Again Challenge. The Tigers are 5-0, though they haven't really been tested, and NU will be their toughest opponent to date.