Women’s Basketball: Wildcats eager to confront California in first road game

Alex Lederman, Reporter

The undefeated Wildcats take to the road for the first time this season to face their biggest challenge yet: the No. 17 California Golden Bears.

“We’re really excited about playing Cal this weekend,” sophomore guard Maggie Lyon said. “I think it’s a great opportunity so early in the season to play such a highly ranked opponent.”

Last year, Northwestern suffered a heartbreaking loss to Cal in the final minutes at Welsh-Ryan Arena, and the Cats look to avenge that loss this weekend.

Lyon is particularly anxious to show the Golden Bears what she’s made of.

“Unfortunately I wasn’t able to play in that game last year because I was hurt at the time, so I’m really excited to get to play them this year,” she said.

Lyon is coming off a career game against Hofstra on Wednesday night, earning her first career double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Now that she knows she can get a double-double, she said it’s time to shift her focus away from just scoring to other facets of the game, like rebounding.

Part of what will allow Lyon to alter her style is the exceptional play of freshman forward Nia Coffey. Coffey scored a career-high 27 points against Hofstra and is averaging 18.3 points per game. She looks forward to her first college road trip.

“I’m really excited,” Coffey said. “I love playing with this team. Cal’s a great team, so I’m just excited to get there to play with these girls again.”

Although undefeated, NU has struggled so far this season with consistency. The team’s play has been streaky, and the offense has struggled at points. Coach Joe McKeown, however, is not worried.

“It’s still November,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of different lineups out there, so you’re gonna have some streaky play. You’re gonna have some roller coasters.”

Nonetheless, McKeown said he realizes the challenge that lies ahead with Cal and recognizes that his offense needs a boost.

“Against a team like that, we’re gonna have to score,” he said. “We’re playing against a really good team on the road, but it’ll be good for us, a good experience. I think offensively we’ve got to get going because they’re a really hard team to stop.”

NU’s offensive struggles have shown on the Big Ten leaderboards. The Cats currently rank last in the conference with only 68.5 points per game. Additionally, they’ve put up the lowest field goal percentage and made the least amount of 3-pointers in the Big Ten.

Where the Cats’ offense has struggled, though, the defense has picked up the slack. NU is second in the conference for least points allowed and ranks first in lowest opponent field goal percentage and in blocks.

Despite still being a work in progress, this team is enjoying its early season success.

“I think we feel really good about our team chemistry and how we’ve been playing,” Lyon said. “There are obviously things we can improve on, but I think we’re all really excited for the opportunity (to play Cal), and we really feel that we can win.”

Email: [email protected]