By Michelle R. Martinelli
Video By Hannah Gebresilassie
INDIANAPOLIS — Northwestern freshman guard Amber Jamison’s dominating defense forced a turnover with four seconds left in overtime Wednesday to help secure the Wildcats’ 76-72 victory over Wisconsin in the opening game of the Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Jamison finished her season-high 25 minutes by swatting away a layup from Wisconsin’s Nicole Bauman, and junior guard Christen Inman was fouled after grabbing the loose ball. Inman made a pair of free throws to send No. 12 Northwestern to the second-round Thursday afternoon against Minnesota.
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“She was a big help-side presence,” Northwestern junior point guard Ashley Deary said of Jamison. “She made a big block at the end of the game, and so she just came in and did what she needed to do.”
The Wildcats were without senior leader Maggie Lyon, who missed her first game of the season with a boot on her foot and a lingering undisclosed injury. But Inman and junior forward Nia Coffey filled the void, leading the Wildcats (16-15) with 18 points each, while Deary added 16 points, eight rebounds and two steals.
As the Wildcats were shrinking their second-half 10-point deficit, Coffey fouled out with about three minutes left in regulation and Northwestern leading 64-63. But Jamison stepped in. She finished with six points, six rebounds and two blocks and broke the game’s final tie at 69 on a deep jumper with 55 seconds left in overtime.
“I was just really focused,” Jamison said about her tie-breaking shot. “It was a good pass [from Deary], and it was in rhythm, so it just felt good.”
Without Lyon, who averaged 16.5 points during the regular season, the Wildcats were forced to rely more heavily on their bench players. Sophomore guard Lydia Rohde started in her place and came away with eight points and freshman guard Jordan Hankins hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the second quarter to galvanize the Wildcats as they trailed 33-32 at halftime. Both teams had 14 points off the bench.
Michala Johnson led the No. 13 Badgers with 22 points, and Avyanna Young earned her first double-double this season with 11 points and 14 rebounds as Wisconsin ends its season at 7-22, its worst record since it finished the 1987-88 season 4-24.
“[It was] just a wild basketball game, a lot of rollercoasters, but I think really the difference was my back court,” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. “Ashley and Christen, they just played through everything. I was really proud of them. They took our team through the diversity of whatever situation [we] put them [in].”
The Wildcats will face the Golden Gophers on Thursday afternoon at approximately 1:30 p.m. after Iowa and Michigan face off at 11 a.m.