Women’s Basketball: Wildcats scrape out win in first round of NIT

Freshman guard Christen Inman looks to pass. Inman's clutch jump shot with 20 seconds left helped Northwestern past Ball State on Thursday in the first round of the Women's NIT.

Freshman guard Christen Inman looks to pass. Inman's clutch jump shot with 20 seconds left helped Northwestern past Ball State on Thursday in the first round of the Women's NIT.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

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At the end of the regular season, Northwestern didn’t know if it would even make the postseason.

Now, the Wildcats (16-15) are advancing to the second round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

NU prevailed 69-65 over the Ball State Cardinals (18-17) in the first round of the WNIT at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Thursday night.

“Just a hard-fought game,” coach Joe McKeown said. “Give Ball State a lot of credit, they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the country the last two weeks.”

It was a close, back-and-forth battle for nearly all 40 minutes. Defensively, NU played a zone for much of the game to limit Ball State’s penetration. But the Cardinals were happy to settle for perimeter shots.

Guard Brittany Carter finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting and fellow guard Shelbie Justice had 12 points on four 3-pointers to propel Ball State, keeping the Cardinals close throughout.

“First half, I felt like we were a step behind them,” McKeown said. “We haven’t played in two weeks … and there’s a little rust to that. Ball State just played four games in five days. They were pretty crisp.”

But the Cats fought back with their own well-balanced attack.

Freshman forward Nia Coffey again led the way for NU, posting 17 points and nine rebounds. Just as important, she was able to stay out of foul trouble and log quality minutes late in the game.

An additional spark for the Cats came off the bench in the form of Lauren Douglas. The sophomore forward put up 17 points of her own, while also pulling down six boards.

Freshman point guard Ashley Deary also had a busy night. The typically selfless floor general took her fair share of shots and ended up with 15 points to go along with six assists and seven rebounds.

Despite that trio of playmakers, it was freshman guard Christen Inman who ended the game the hero. She nailed a 15-foot pull-up jumper with 20 seconds remaining to ice the game for NU.

“Time was running down and we were trying to get the best last shot that we possible could,” Inman said. “Ashley made a great pass out to me, and it’s a shot I hit every day in practice.”

The Cats will face Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis at 2 p.m. Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

With its next matchup ahead and with the regular season in the rear-view mirror, NU is taking things one game at a time.

“It kind of feels like we have a second chance,” Deary said. “We’re going to make the most of it and go hard and take every possession seriously.”

Email: RobertPillote2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @BobbyPillote

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