What started out as a battle quickly turned into a blowout, as Northwestern never recovered from a late first half run by North Carolina State in a 76-61 Wolfpack victory Thursday night at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
“The bottom line is that our energy just wasn’t there,” sophomore guard Maggie Lyon said. “We played really flat.”
Although the Wildcats had a promising start to the Big Ten/ACC 2013 Women’s Basketball Challenge, their offensive game quickly deteriorated. And as NU grew weaker, NC State grew stronger. With less than five minutes left in the first half, the game was tied at 21 points apiece. Entering halftime, the Wolfpack was up 35-23.
And it only got worse from there for the Cats. NC State led by as many as 24 in the second half.
“You’ve got to make stops on defense, which we were never able to do,” coach Joe McKeown said.
Coming off a career-high-tying 27 points against Lafayette and both Big Ten Freshman of the Week and Player of the Week honors, freshman forward Nia Coffey struggled Thursday. She made only 5 out of 12 shots for a total of 13 points. Coffey did seem to find her footing late in the game, but it was too late.
“Nia played really hard at end, but we needed that earlier in the game,” Lyon said. “Not just from her, I’m just saying for the whole team.”
Though dominant throughout most of the Cats’ non-conference schedule, Coffey has now struggled to make shots against two of NU’s toughest opponents – Cal and NC State. She did, however, put up 20 points and 10 rebounds against No. 25 DePaul, proving that she is capable of keeping up with the big guns.
“All these games between now and January are just learning experiences for (Nia) and the freshmen starting,” McKeown said. “You’ve got to go through some ups and downs.”
Lyon also had a rough game. Entering the night averaging 13.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, she had only 6 points and one rebound against the Wolfpack. Nonetheless, McKeown said he knows the vital role she plays for his squad moving forward.
“Maggie, her heart’s in the right place,” he said. “She was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, so she’s somebody I feel like I can really depend on. Especially when we get into conference play, she’ll make plays for us.”
Coming off the upset over DePaul, McKeown said his team was a little beat up. He said the extended break NU is about to take, with a nine-day break before a Dec. 14 matchup with Loyola, is much needed.
Once rested, McKeown is confident his team won’t be making the mistakes he saw against NC State.
“We missed three layups at the end of the first half,” he said. “In the middle of January, we’re not gonna miss those.”
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