"I think if we can play better defense than we did tonight, we'll have a much better opportunity [to win games]," he said. "I think that's the biggest thing for us, is to play much better defense."
NU faced a Penn State squad that boasted a definite size advantage, and they faced them without junior forward Dannielle Diamant, one of the Wildcats' best inside players.
"They're a tough team to guard," said freshman guard Morgan Jones. "We couldn't get a stop after every shot we made. Defense definitely wins games. That's very obvious."
Diamant, who averages 13.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, sat out because of an injury sustained in NU's game at Michigan State.
"With Dannielle not being able to play, it just really limits offensively some of the things we can do," McKeown said.
With Diamant out, freshman guard Morgan Jones and junior forward Kendall Hackney led the offense with 20 and 15 points, respectively. Neither shot very well — they were a collective 14-44 from the field — and they took 60 percent of the entire team's shot attempts.
"Dannielle is definitely a huge part of our team," said freshman forward Alex Cohen. "I knew coming in that Kate [Popovec] really had to fill her shoes and do a lot for the team."
Cohen, who has seen only limited playing time this year, filled in for the injured Diamant. She finished the game with eight points and five rebounds. Popovec, a junior, had four points and four rebounds.
The Nittany Lions' strongest weapon against the Wildcats was junior guard Alex Bentley. She Indianapolis native scored 17 points, but her impact was greater than just her numbers, said McKeown, who tried to recruit her three years ago.
"I told coach Washington, it's hard to recreate someone like Alex Bentley," McKeown said. "The only person in Chicago who can do that is Derrick Rose. Every time you score, she's got the ball right back at you. You don't see that enough in our game, so it's hard to defend and hard to prepare for."
When NU heads to Lincoln on Thursday, if they are still without Diamant, they'll have to do exactly what McKeown succinctly said: "play much better defense." If they cannot do that, they could be in for another very tough game.