Northwest women’s basketball, after a three-game winning streak, was looking to avoid dropping its fourth straight game when Nebraska Kearney visited Bearcat Arena Jan. 23.
That daunting streak, one that’s been with the program since the Jan. 9 loss to Emporia State, would continue via the all-round effort given by the Lopers.
The Bearcats (8-9, 3-5 MIAA) late-game heroics were enough to outscore Kearney (18-2, 7-2 MIAA) 17-13 in the fourth quarter. The problem is that they failed to do so in the three prior, eventually falling 75-51.
The newly founded four-game skid, Northwest coach Austin Meyer said, was something that the Bearcats knew would be possible with the level of competition presented during the heart of the conference schedule.
“I think there are some focus things,” Meyer said about the winning drought. “It’s just, the teams we’re playing are really good. … It’s a long season. It can get frustrating but we’re trying to grow this thing and build it and we want to fight every possession.”
The streak, one that isn’t particularly welcomed by the Bearcats, can’t be attributed to any certain detail. It is, however, in part due to the slump that the women are in shooting from beyond the arc.
The same team that shot 33% from deep to compile an 8-5 record is the same team that has gotten 27% of those same shots to fall during the recent four-game skid. Against the Lopers, a cold spell, coupled with Kearney’s stifling defense, forced the Bearcats to shoot 16% from three.
The coach, sitting in front of a group of reporters following the loss to the Lopers, struggled to pinpoint what the reason is for the recent struggle.
“I don’t really know,” Meyer said about the origin of the slump. “We were rushed on quite a few of them — which I don’t think we’re getting great ones — so just trying to get in and simulate game shots is important.”
The absence of a deep-shot presence from the Bearcats was accompanied, for the fourth game in a row, by the one of senior guard Kendey Eaton. Eaton’s injury, one that is in correlation with the losing streak, has left a void on both ends of the court for Northwest. That void, Meyer said, can’t create excuses for any lapses that Northwest might have.
The same void, freshman forward Paityn Rau added, is noticeable, leaving an opportunity for everyone else to step up.
“We’re just back to kind of figuring out the team,” Rau said. “We’re missing Kendey Eaton, who’s a big part of our team, obviously. I think we’re just figuring stuff out again and just trying to come back together to fill that role, which we know everyone on the team can step up into that role.”
The offensive effort, or lack thereof, could be contributed to the defensive efforts of the Lopers, who sit in sole possession of second place in the MIAA. The defense, one that Meyer praised after the loss, forced the Bearcats into turning the ball over 11 times, as well as shooting a mere 40% in the game overall.
“I mean, these guys are really good,” Meyer said about Kearney. “They had a counter to everything we tried to do.”
The three-game losing streak, before being extended, wasn’t and isn’t something that’s haunting the team. The matchup against Kearney was, perhaps, the easier in a week where the Bearcats face No. 10 Fort Hays Jan. 25.
However, junior guard Mallory McConkey added, they knew the Lopers weren’t going to be an easy outing. And after explaining the ways that the Lopers could attack, on both ends of the court, it was rather simply put by the guard.
“It’s really just kind of like, picking your poison,” McConkey said about the talents of Kearney.
“We had confidence going in the game knowing that we could hang around with this team,” Rau added. “We always play to win and want to win. That’s just kind of the mindset that we have to have.”
The loss to Kearney leaves Northwest with the matchup against Hays (15-3, 6-3 MIAA), who is coming off of an 18-point loss to Missouri Western Jan. 23. The losing streak, of course, is in jeopardy of extending to five games.
That, however, Meyer said, was always a possibility with the scheduling that Northwest was presented with.
“You knew going in — when you peek at the schedule before the season — that this was gonna be a tough brutal stretch with the team’s we’re playing,” Meyer said. “Hopefully, in the long run, it makes us better, playing against these types of teams, competing, it’s a long season and hopefully we can get on a roll.”