Women's basketball: One and done, NU loses to Nebraska, 88-56, in B1G Tourney

The Wildcats’ stay in the Big Ten tournament was a short one, as they were completely outclassed in the first round by No. 24 Nebraska, 88-56, ending Northwestern’s season. The game wasn’t even as close as that blowout score; at one point, the ‘Huskers went on a 24-0 run over 11 minutes in the first half to open up a 41-10 lead. In fact, the 54 points Nebraska scored in the first half set a Big Ten tournament record, allowing the 'Huskers to liberally substitute in the second half.

As the No. 11 seed in the tourney, Northwestern (14-16 overall, 4-12 Big Ten) was definitely an underdog in this game, but the total meltdown on both ends of the court is still a disappointing way for seniors Allison Mocchi, Tailor Jones and injured Brittany Orban to end their careers.

Dannielle Diamant led the Wildcats with 14 points, while Kendall Hackney and Karly Roser each added 11. With a record below .500, NU is ineligible for the postseason, breaking a two-year NIT streak.

The hot start to the season, which included non-conference wins over LSU, NC State and Missouri, seemed to have the Wildcats primed for a potential NCAA tournament breakthrough. NU hadn’t made the Big Dance since 1997.

But the season collapsed during Big Ten play, a combination of injuries and inconsistency. Losing Orban, who was the team’s leading scorer at the time, to a season-ending ACL tear six games in really hurt, and Diamant, arguably the team’s best player, missed a handful of games with a variety of ailments and injuries. Compounding this were nagging injuries to reserves Inesha Hale, Kate Popovic, and Anna Cole, which left the Wildcats with almost no depth for the first 2/3 of the season.

Roser and Morgan Jones, who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, played well early and logged a ton of minutes, but both seemed to hit the proverbial freshman wall in conference play, as they struggled with turnovers and poor shooting.

Let’s also not discount the fact that even before the season began, four-year starting point guard Beth Marshall and All-American center Amy Jaeschke left huge holes to fill after their graduation.

Overall, I think the future is bright. NU's touted freshmen will come back next season a year wiser, and Diamant and Hackney, the team’s leading scorer, will be the senior leaders of the team. Head coach Joe McKeown, four years into his restoration project, also will be bringing in a promising recruiting class that should, at the very least, provide the team with some more depth and quality competition in practice.

This year was somewhat of a rebuilding year, and I’d expect the team to make big strides next season.

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