When Northwest women’s basketball squared off against Lincoln Feb. 8, it had been 33 days since the fans in Bearcat Arena saw the women leave a game with a victory.
After 40 minutes of action against the Blue Tigers (3-19, 0-13 MIAA), the Bearcats (11-11, 6-7 MIAA) found themselves with a win in front of the home crowd with a 59-45 defeat of Lincoln.
“I think any win at all is nice to have,” junior guard Jaelyn Haggard said. “I guess I didn’t realize it had been that long.”
The Bearcats were headlined by the efforts of Haggard. Over the last four games, she has shot 16-30 from beyond the arc. Against the Tigers, she compiled a game-high 16 points while shooting 6 for 12 from the field and 4 for 7 from deep.
The outburst served, in some ways, as a declaration to the end of the dry spell Haggard was going through in the four games prior to the four she’s been the spark of.
“Oh my gosh, Jae’s a beast,” freshman forward Paityn Rau said. “We all know that — she’s back. Sometimes you go through a little slump but we’ve always had faith in her and always will.”
To couple with Haggard’s scoring spree, Rau tallied 12 points while shooting 6-for-7. Rau left the game within the early minutes due to foul trouble, leaving her to play 13 minutes in the contest.
Rau’s minimized action could have raised concern for a lineup that has struggled to rebound throughout the season. When Northwest has the advantage on the glass, it’s undefeated. When Northwest doesn’t have that advantage, it’s struggled to find success.
“I got myself in a sticky situation with my fouls,” Rau said. “But I know my teammates can step up and, again, that’s the focus. I know I need to come back and step up in that area the next game. But as a whole, we’ll keep working on that, too.
The Tigers led the rebounding bout 34-31. The Bearcats, of course, had one of the few instances on the season where they were able to lose that battle and still win the proverbial war.
After missing time due to injury, senior guard Kendey Eaton made her way back into the lineup. That move, coach Austin Meyer said, was one that he felt gave the Bearcats a better matchup against Lincoln. A move in the starting rotation, he added, is never to punish someone, but provide a matchup that fits the scheme that night.
Perhaps the most impressive part of Haggard’s performance was that it came from the bench. Including her 16 points, Northwest recorded 26 bench points throughout the contest. That depth, Haggard said, is a nice touch to the roster that didn’t have much of it prior to this season.
“We have 10 capable players,” Haggard said. “Whether or not you start or you finish, being able to contribute in any way is really helpful. So I think it just goes to show a lot about who we are as a team, that no matter who’s on the floor, we’re willing to try and score.”
The win gives the Bearcats the most wins in a season since the 2012-13 campaign (15). It was one that kept Northwest in the hunt for a spot in the MIAA Tournament. It was one that Meyer thinks was good for a team that’s now won three of its last four games.
It’s also one that leaves the Bearcats with a two-game road trip against Missouri Southern (7-14, 4-9 MIAA) Feb. 13 and Pitt State (12-9, 8-5 MIAA) Feb. 15. Those games, Haggard said, aren’t ones that the Bearcats can expect to win easily.
“On any given night, anyone can show up,” Haggard said. “We’re not focused on anybody else’s record. We’re just taking it one night at a time and no matter who we play, giving it our best effort.”
“Anyone can win any night,” Rau said.