Women’s Basketball: Wildcats come up short against Golden Bears

Josh Walfish, Reporter

Northwestern fell behind early to California and never fully recovered, suffering its first defeat of the year.

The Wildcats took their first road trip of the young season, heading to California to take on the 17th-ranked Golden Bears. California scored the first 9 points and 13 of the first 15 to establish control. NU made a small comeback to get the score within 1 point, but it never got back to level with California, which cruised to a 65-51 victory.

“We had our chances, but we just couldn’t cut into their lead enough where we could get down one or two with the ball,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We played hard. The first road game, it was a good experience for us, and that’s what you want to do in non-conference, learn something.”

NU’s shots did not fall for most of the game, with the Cats shooting 31 percent from the field and less than 18 percent from behind the arc. The poor shooting was not from a lack of good opportunities, but rather from a stifling California defense. The Cats only had seven assists on 18 baskets, although they normally average an assist on 68 percent of scores.

Freshman forward Nia Coffey, who boasted 18 points per game, was held scoreless for the first half and only mustered 7 points on 3-for-14 shooting. Sophomore guard Maggie Lyon led the way for the Cats with 17 points despite shooting 5-for-17 from the field.

“They’re a really good defensive team,” McKeown said. “They made things tough. I thought we got some good shots. … (Coffey) is going to be the focal point of the other team’s defense, and we need to help her work through that.”

California’s two starters at forward, Reshanda Gray and Courtney Range, dominated NU inside, scoring 30 points and collecting 23 rebounds combined. It was part of a larger trend of the Golden Bears dominating in the paint. California outscored NU 34-28 in the paint and out-rebounded the Cats 47-39, including 18 offensive boards. The dominance on the inside also paved the way for the Golden Bears to score 14 second-chance points and limit NU’s starting forwards to 7 points and 13 rebounds combined.

Part of that dominance came from NU’s three main front court options getting into foul trouble. Coffey had four fouls, as did junior Alex Cohen, and sophomore Lauren Douglas fouled out with about nine minutes left to play.

“We got in foul trouble — they’re a great rebounding team and that was the difference in the game,” McKeown said. “The difference in this game was keeping them off the offensive glass, and we couldn’t do it.”

NU’s turnover demons followed the team to the West Coast as the Cats turned the ball over 19 times. California made NU pay for those miscues, scoring 23 points off those 19 mistakes. The turnovers were less of an issue for NU this season because the Cats had a 7.5 turnover margin in their first four games. NU forced 19 California turnovers which led to only 9 points on the other end.

Yet NU’s defense once again stepped up to the task and held California to 35.5 percent shooting and just 26.7 percent from behind the arc. McKeown said he thought the game plan was good, but the lack of rebounding hurt the Cats on defense.

“We made them miss their first shot, and that’s a big thing,” McKeown said. “If we can do that and get better at rebounding, then we can have a little more margin to run (in transition).”

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