Women’s Basketball: Wildcats hope to continue steady performances with conference play underway


Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer

Freshman forward Nia Coffey prepares to shoot. Coffey, along with classmate Christen Inman, had several strong performances over Winter Break, helping lead the Wildcats to victories over IUPUI and Northeastern.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

The past month has been a steady ride for Northwestern.

After starting off with a strong 7-2 record through Dec. 5, the Wildcats continued their even play over Winter Break to reach their current 10-4 mark. Among the defeats was a one-point game against No. 18 Nebraska on Thursday in NU’s Big Ten opener.

“It was good for us,” Coach Joe McKeown said. “Everybody got to contribute. We had some hard fought games, we had to execute; it was all good preparation.”

The Cats started off the six-game stretch with a dominant 90-57 win over crosstown foe Loyola. Four different players had double-digit point totals for NU, including forward Nia Coffey, a true freshman averaging more than 15 points a game. The entire team was brilliant from beyond the arc, tying a program record with 13 made 3-pointers and posting a 3-point field goal percentage (52 percent) better than their overall field goal percentage (49 percent).

That offensive momentum carried over for the Cats in their next game against Oral Roberts, as NU posted another huge victory with an 84-54 win. Guard Maggie Lyon paced the squad with 17 points and seven rebounds. The sophomore has started every game this season and ranks second on the team in minutes, averaging 34 per game.

A surge of youth powered the Cats past IUPUI on Dec. 21, with freshmen accounting for 48 of NU’s points in a 72-61 victory. Freshman guard Ashley Deary had nine assists to go along with a career-high 21 points, and her backcourt teammate, freshman Christen Inman, added 13 points of her own while playing the entire gameMcKeown said he is, unsurprisingly, pleased with how his freshmen took on the occasional starring role.

“I’m impressed with the way they’ve responded to the challenges we’ve thrown at them,” he said.

After the three-game win streak, the Cats came up just short in dramatic fashion against Indiana State on Dec. 28. The game was close throughout, with several lead changes down the stretch. Sophomore forward Lauren Douglas hit a 3-pointer with seconds left to tie the game at 67-67, but the Sycamores sealed the 70-67 victory with their own 3-point shot right before the buzzer.

NU quickly recovered the next day with a 73-46 win over Northeastern. It was all about star power for the Cats, as Inman scored a career-high 27 points, Lyon added 20 points and Coffey recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 12 points and 18 rebounds. NU also showed off its defensive prowess, holding Northeastern to just 27 percent shooting from the floor.

The Cats opened conference play with their first game of the new year on Jan. 2 but couldn’t quite pull off the upset on the road against the Cornhuskers. Inman continued her strong play, contributing 19 points and shooting a perfect 8-for-8 from the floor. Lyon missed an open 3-point look to put NU ahead with seconds left to play and the Cornhuskers held on to win 66-65.

“One of the toughest home courts in the country,” McKeown said. “I thought we played great, but we have to be able to finish those games.”

A seventh game against Illinois was scheduled for Monday but had to be postponed to Jan. 15 due to the severe weather affecting the Midwest. The Cats resume their Big Ten schedule Thursday as they host No. 21 Purdue, with the team looking to continue the steady play that has been key to its success so far.

‘That stretch helped us get ready for Purdue this week,” McKeown said. “We’re starting three freshman but we’ve shown a lot of poise.”

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