TOPEKA, Kan. — There were a mere 22 seconds left on the clock in Lee Arena as Northwest women’s basketball faced a 3-point deficit against MIAA foe Washburn following a pair of made free throws from Ichabods senior guard Nuria Barrientos.
Northwest fourth-year coach Austin Meyer used one of his three remaining timeouts to give his team a chance to discuss what to do next in hope of cutting into the Ichabods’ 55-52 lead.
“Coach Meyer was just telling our team, ‘We got to keep controlling what we can control, and that starts with communicating on offense and defense,’” Northwest freshman guard Peyton Kelderman said.
That’s when Northwest freshman guard Molly Hartnett received the inbounds pass and dribbled to the left wing, where she scanned the floor. A ball screen was set up on the right side of the paint, and Hartnett drove past it and down to the basket. With the option to shoot herself or pass it back out to Kelderman for a shot from beyond the arc, Hartnett elected for the former.
Instead of the ball traveling through the basket to make it a 1-point game, the shot missed its mark, leaving the ’Cats in a hopeless situation.
“We got to a pretty good spot and just weren’t able to finish,” Meyer said. “But, there was still enough time in the game that we didn’t necessarily need a three, but just kind of like the entire night, we struggled to finish.”
Northwest shot it one more time with four seconds left, but a trio of successful free throws from Washburn all but sealed the game, as the Bearcats lost to the Ichabods 58-52.
Despite the result, the Bearcats (11-5, 6-4 MIAA) put in a lot of work throughout the game to make it a 3-point deficit in the closing moments.
The Ichabods held a 20-9 lead over the Bearcats with seven minutes left in the second quarter.
Washburn went on a 20-5 run from seven minutes left in the first quarter to the aforementioned time in the second. Part of Washburn’s success came from another slow start for Northwest.
In the first quarter, the visiting squad committed five turnovers just two days after committing six in the first 10 minutes of action against No. 16 Nebraska-Kearney.
“Just felt like we weren’t really aggressive,” Meyer said. “I thought we passed up shots, we didn’t make very good reads, and we just didn’t make very good decisions.”
The Bearcats’ struggles did not end when it came to scoring the basket. The team shot 7-for-23 (30.4%), including 2-for-11 (18%) from 3-point range in the entire first half.
“They pressured our ball screens, and they took us out of some things,” Meyer said about Washburn’s defense. “They did play really well, but even at the end of the day, I still thought we got some shots, and I just didn’t think we played with a lot of confidence.
The first half came to a close with the Ichabods in front of the Bearcats 26-20, marking the third straight game that the Bearcats were behind at halftime.
And for the third straight game, Northwest played like an entirely different team in the third quarter. The ‘Cats outscored the Ichabods 17-9 out of the break to put themselves in front 37-35 with one quarter remaining.
Unfortunately for Northwest, the lead did not last long into the fourth quarter.
For the next two minutes and 27 seconds, the Ichabods went on a 9-0 run to put themselves up seven.
“I wouldn’t say it affected us mentally, but, I mean, it’s tough because we’ve just been closing the gap, and then they go on a little run,” Kelderman said.
Washburn’s run ultimately kept the Ichabods in front for the rest of the game.
The loss for the Bearcats (11-5) marks their third consecutive loss following defeats from No. 16 Nebraska-Kearney and No. 2 Fort Hays State.
“We’re gonna focus on moving onto the next one, but it is concerning to have three straight games where we don’t come out of the gate playing well,” Meyer said.
The Bearcats will have a chance to end their losing streak when they travel to play MIAA foe Central Oklahoma (11-6) Jan. 20 in Edmond, Oklahoma.
“They’re one of the most talented teams in the league,” Meyer said of the Bronchos. “It definitely doesn’t get any easier for us, but we knew this was gonna be a tough road trip. As a program still trying to grow, we have to make sure we come ready to play, because if you don’t come ready, it’s just too tough of a league.”