Women’s Basketball: Wildcats fade late, fall to Golden Gophers for second time

Freshman+forward+Nia+Coffey+takes+the+ball+up+the+court.+Although+Coffey+contributed+a+team-leading+23+points+and+six+rebounds+Saturday+against+Minnesota%2C+the+freshman+said+her+team+needs+to+improve+its+defense.
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Women’s Basketball: Wildcats fade late, fall to Golden Gophers for second time

Freshman forward Nia Coffey takes the ball up the court. Although Coffey contributed a team-leading 23 points and six rebounds Saturday against Minnesota, the freshman said her team needs to improve its defense.

Freshman forward Nia Coffey takes the ball up the court. Although Coffey contributed a team-leading 23 points and six rebounds Saturday against Minnesota, the freshman said her team needs to improve its defense.

Daily file photo by Annabel Edwards

Freshman forward Nia Coffey takes the ball up the court. Although Coffey contributed a team-leading 23 points and six rebounds Saturday against Minnesota, the freshman said her team needs to improve its defense.

Daily file photo by Annabel Edwards

Daily file photo by Annabel Edwards

Freshman forward Nia Coffey takes the ball up the court. Although Coffey contributed a team-leading 23 points and six rebounds Saturday against Minnesota, the freshman said her team needs to improve its defense.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

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Minnesota guard Rachel Banham showed Saturday why she is the Big Ten’s leading scorer.

The dynamic junior dropped 32 points to help lead the Golden Gophers (17-9, 6-6 Big Ten) to an 82-64 victory over the Wildcats (14-11, 4-8) for the second time this season. NU has now lost its last four games.

The Cats led by as many as 11 points during the first half.

“A tale of two halves, obviously,” coach Joe McKeown said. “The last five or six minutes … we just broke down defensively. We gotta find ways to not let that happen.”

Freshman forward Nia Coffey was the star player for the Cats, recording 23 points, six rebounds and four assists. But, Coffey fouled out with two minutes to play and missed the critical final moments of the game.

Her performance comes on the heels of a 29-point, 10-rebound outing in the Cats’ last game against Iowa. The precocious forward has been NU’s top scoring threat all season but seems to have stepped up her play in the home stretch of the schedule.

Still, she was unhappy with her team’s display.

“Definitely our defense,” Coffey said, when asked what the team needed to improve. “Making sure that we make smart decisions on offense, and continuing to play together and play hard until the finish.”

She didn’t do it alone. Sophomore forward Lauren Douglas had another great game off the bench, posting 14 points and five rebounds. Freshman guard Ashley Deary also performed well, directing the offense with 11 points, five rebounds and five assists.

The final part of NU’s freshman trio, guard Christen Inman, had a quiet night statistically but was matched up against Banham for most of her playing time.

McKeown said before the game that stopping Banham would be a team effort, and even though she still dominated, NU was able to generate turnovers throughout the game by running a full court press.

“We were just trying to tire them out a bit,” Douglas said. “Just pressure them and make them handle the ball.”

Junior forward Alex Cohen was an unsung hero under the basket for the Cats. The starter has been improving on defense all season and sparked easy transition scores for NU with four blocks.

But despite Cohen’s greater presence, the Cats continued their trend of being out-rebounded. Minnesota was able to nab 49 boards, including 15 off the offensive glass, compared to NU’s 33 total rebounds.

Golden Gophers’ center Amanda Zahui B. pulled in 18 rebounds alone.

“You can’t let somebody get 18 rebounds on you, just can’t,” McKeown said. “It was a combination of everything. … Today we extended our defense’s pressure, and some long rebounds went to Minnesota.”

NU has just four games remaining and only one more on their home court. With the mounting losses, the Cats’ postseason prospects look increasingly slim.

Email: robertpillote2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @BobbyPillote

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