Women’s Basketball: Wildcats’ teamwork key to second victory over unselfish Boilermakers

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Daily file photo by Susan Du

Freshman guard Christen Inman defends against Purdue in Northwestern’s 71-68 win Jan. 9. The Wildcats play the No. 22 Boilermakers again Thursday, looking to repeat their narrow victory.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

A rematch is always a little bit tougher.

That’s especially the case for Northwestern as it goes on the road to face No. 22 Purdue on Thursday. In what was a back-and-forth game with a tight finish, the Wildcats (12-6, 2-3 Big Ten) narrowly escaped with a 71-68 victory over the then No. 21 Boilermakers (13-5, 3-3) the last time these two teams played Jan. 9.

With NU looking to climb the conference standings and Purdue seeking to defend its home court, emotions are likely to be running high.

“You have some confidence,” coach Joe McKeown said, “but you also understand you have to go on the road, and you have to be ready to play. … It’s a mental toughness thing against the defending conference champion.”

Purdue has certainly looked like a champion recently. The team’s on a hot streak after a 33-point trouncing of Indiana on Friday and an impressive 77-75 road victory over Nebraska, a team NU barely lost to earlier this year. The Cats, however, are fresh off their own big win over Wisconsin on Saturday.

The fairly even matchup will feature two balanced offenses that love to share the ball. The last time NU and Purdue played, the Boilermakers finished the game with four players scoring 10 or more points. Disrupting that spread attack will be vital to a Cats victory.

“The problem when you play them is that they have two great players, (KK) Houser and (Courtney) Moses,” McKeown said. “But everyone that’s on the court for them can score in different ways. I just think you have to be cognizant of where people are.”

NU is also no stranger to being unselfish. Against the Badgers, the Cats had three different players finish with 17 points: sophomore forward Lauren Douglas, freshman forward Nia Coffey and freshman guard Christen Inman. McKeown believes such great teamwork is a product of chemistry.

“That’s what I really like about our team,” he said. “We’ve evolved as we’ve gone through our non-conference schedule and gotten to Big Ten play. It’s just this attitude that they care about each other, and they don’t care who gets all the credit.”

His players agree. Inman, despite being the team’s most efficient scorer shooting 52.7 percent, is always scrapping for rebounds on both ends of the floor and consistently matches up against bigger opponents on defense. On offense, she hardly has a shoot-first mindset.

“We’re all just on the same page,” Inman said. “We share the ball really well. … It’s our mentality to share, and that’s how we all ended up with 17 points (against Wisconsin).”

That sense of teamwork will have to be evident if NU is to vanquish Purdue for a second time this season.

“Since we beat them last time,” Coffey said, “We know they’re going to be hungry for a win, especially on their own court. They play really well on their home floor. … I think it’s going to be a very intense game, and it’s going to come down to the second half.”

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