As Thanksgiving approaches, Northwestern wants something to be thankful for — a win over Lafayette on Wednesday night.
“Lafayette comes in 4-1, playing really well, well coached,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We’re gonna have to be ready. No jet lag. No letdown.”
The Wildcats (4-1) return home after a 65-51 loss at No. 17 California, their first dropped game of the season. NU struggled with shooting all game long, making only 31 percent of its shots from the field. At the end of the game, the Cats also had four players with four or more fouls.
Sophomore guard Maggie Lyon said there’s still need for improvement moving forward but added the first road trip of the season was a great learning experience for the young team.
“I think it just shows (the freshmen) that the teams you play in non-conference are completely ranging in different talents,” she said. “It shows the kind of environment that you have to play in on the road. It shows that we have things to work on. We just have to focus.”
Freshman forward Nia Coffey, a standout thus far for NU, had her roughest outing of the year against Cal. Prior to the weekend’s game, she averaged 18.3 points a game; in California, she put up a mere 7 points and shot 3-for-14 from the floor. McKeown, however, does not think the stats tell the full story.
“I think the numbers are a little deceiving for how well she played in that game,” he said.
The coach cited the rookie’s strong hustle on the court and her competitive drive in the game as being quite impressive.
Coffey, though, knows there is still work to be done. She said teamwork is the key for this group.
“Whenever we’re not having a good game,” she said, “we just need to pull together, just play as a team.”
And she’s right: The Cats have thrived when they’ve shared the ball. Different players have stolen the show in each game.
“Because we have such an even talent across the board, every game someone different steps up,” Lyon said.
The team, however, must improve its rebounding to be a true threat in the Big Ten. Although the Cats worked on getting boards in practice, they still struggled in that area against the Golden Bears.
“We’ve been talking about rebounding and blocking out,” Lyon said, “And I think that’s a big thing we didn’t do as well against Cal. It was evident because if we had done a better job of that we could have beaten them.”
Nonetheless, McKeown said his squad is in a good position looking ahead. The Cats held their own against one of the nation’s top teams and expect to remain competitive with top-tier opponents.
For now, McKeown is thinking one game at a time. He knows that a tough non-conference schedule lies ahead, and his focus is solely on beating Lafayette.
After Wednesday night’s game, though, he and the players hope to celebrate a victory with their second family – their teammates. McKeown promised that his players, who will stay in Evanston for another game against DePaul this weekend, will be taken care of for the holiday.
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