NU downs Delaware 76-53

By Sammy Dubin

Northwestern turned in their most well-rounded performance of the young season Saturday afternoon in Evanston, roughing up the Delaware Blue Hens with a final score of 76-53.

Despite depleted guard depth in the absence of Lauryn Satterwhite and Jillian Brown, the Wildcats finished with four double-digit scorers for the first time in nearly a month. First-year Melannie Daley made just her second start all year; judging from the stat sheet, though, inexperience was not an issue. Daley posted 12 points on a .625 shooting percentage, to go along with four rebounds, two assists and one steal. Head Coach Joe McKeown seems to be impressed by the prolific play of his young guard — Sunday marked the fourth straight appearance for Daley of 20 minutes or more.

Caileigh Walsh (18 points), Veronica Burton (17 points) and Laya Hartman (12 points) rounded out the ‘Cats’ leading scorers with Hartman also chipping in a game-high eight rebounds off the bench. Walsh sent two more shot attempts into the Welsh-Ryan seats, bringing her Big Ten-leading block count to 22. And Burton was transcendent, per usual. The team captain converted six of nine field goal attempts, on top of five boards and a team-high six assists. Defensively, Burton notched four steals, ballooning her Big Ten season-leading steal total to 38. Burton’s execution on both ends of the floor embodied all the best facets of the ‘Cats’ blowout victory. Sophomore guard Jasmine Williams also earned her first career start. Her campaign got off to a rocky start, as Williams failed to log a point in 12 minutes of action.

The gritty play of senior guard Jewel Smalls served as the Blue Hens’ lone bright spot. Smalls pounded the glass with seven rebounds and poured in 15 points on a 5-of-7 shooting effort from three-point-range. Excluding Smalls’ contributions, Delaware put forth an abysmal shooting display, converting just three of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc. Their 53 points versus Northwestern marked a season low.

Delaware jumped out to a quick 5-3 lead in the first quarter. But Caileigh Walsh responded with a wide-open three-point jumper, erasing the Blue Hens’ first and only lead of the contest. Northwestern finished the quarter on a 12-2 spurt and never looked back. The ‘Cats showed off their long-range shooting prowess late in the second quarter, banging home long-balls on three consecutive possessions from Burton, Walsh and Hartman.

Most encouraging, McKeown’s renowned “blizzard defense” reminded the nation of the nickname’s validity. The Wildcat defense proved nothing short of stifling in the early going, holding Delaware to 16 first-half points. The second half entailed sloppier defense and a palpable reduction in intensity, with Northwestern surrendering 37 points to their own 43. But without the nation’s leading scorer in Jasmine Dickey (25.6 points-per-game), the Blue Hens lacked the offensive firepower to overcome the first-half deficit. Northwestern has now limited opponents to under 55 points in consecutive matchups.

Northwestern (7-3 overall, 1-0 B1G) will look to match their longest winning-streak of the season Tuesday night when they take on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Tune in to WNUR 89.3 FM and Mixlr at 7:00 p.m. CT. Sriman Narayanan and Michael Barthelemy will have the call.