Wildcats Fall To DePaul

The Wildcats dropped their first game of the year, falling to No. 20 DePaul at Welsh-Ryan Arena, 88-72.

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Looking to score its second upset of a top-25 team in as many games, Northwestern used 19 points by junior Dannielle Diamant to give local rival DePaul all it could handle Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. A late 9-0 run by the 20th-ranked Blue Demons, however, broke open what was a four-point game with 3:36 remaining as the visitors notched an 88-72 victory to hand the 'Cats their first loss of the year.

Diamant's team-high 19 points -- one off her career best -- was one of three double-digit scoring performances for NU as freshman Morgan Jones poured in 17 and senior Brittany Orban notched 16 to go along with seven rebounds.

The contest was the setting of Northwestern's annual Autism Awareness game, the third consecutive season in which NU has partnered with Autism Speaks to raise awareness and educate people about the autism spectrum. The game featured a ceremonial tip-off and ball presentation with representatives from Autism Speaks as well as a halftime game between the Evanston E-Team and the North Shore Special Olympics Team.

"What a great crowd and atmosphere," head coach Joe McKeown said. "Northwestern and DePaul created a great event and I thought it was a great game, a hard fought game. We had breakdowns at the wrong time and DePaul took advantage of them. That was the difference in the game."

DePaul head coach Doug Bruno reflected on the Wildcats' performance after the game. "I've got a lot of respect for NU," Bruno said. "That was a 4-0 team that beat a ranked team on the road. You don't just go down to LSU and beat LSU [as the 'Cats did on Tuesday]. Northwestern and Coach McKeown does a lot of good things defensively. We shoot the three well, but they guard the three well. This game was a lot closer than the score indicates."

With both teams struggling to score early on, the Wildcats took their first lead, 7-5, on two Morgan Jones free throws just over six minutes into the game. Six straight points by Diamant -- following an and-1 layup with a triple from the left wing -- then gave NU a 13-9 lead with 12 minutes before the break.

The Blue Demons answered with a 13-2 run punctuated by a Keisha Hampton foul line jumper. Brittany Orban put an end to the NU drought when she converted an old-fashioned three-point play, setting the score at 22-18 DePaul. That triggered a 10-3 run on the other end for the 'Cats, which eventually left the score knotted at 25.

Hot shooting by the visitors allowed them to build a 41-34 lead in the waning minutes of the half, but a late Morgan Jones 3-pointer pulled the Wildcats within four, 41-37, at the intermission. DePaul shot an efficient 47.1 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, while Diamant led all scorers with 15 first-half points.

DePaul quickly matched its largest lead of the game at eight points out of the break, but NU responded and soon was within one, 51-50, on a made triple by Kendall Hackney at the 13:46 mark. Northwestern made it all the way back just over three minutes later when Jones cashed in on two free throws to knot the score at 58.

With Diamant, NU's leading scorer, sidelined with four fouls since the 15:29 mark, DePaul was able to build a six-point advantage as the clock ticked under six minutes to go. After a Morgan Jones cut it to four, the Blue Demons scored the next four to retain control, leading 74-66.

Northwestern would get as close as four once again before DePaul's Hampton sandwiched a jumper and two free throws around a Wildcats miss to key a 9-0 spurt that gave the visitors a stranglehold on the lead.

DePaul finished at 46 percent from the field and made the most of 12 three-pointers compared to Northwestern's four.

Next up for the Wildcats is a date with North Carolina State at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Evanston as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

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