Women’s Basketball: Wildcats’ defense faces tough challenge on road against Hawkeyes


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Ashley Deary follows through after a free throw. The sophomore point guard is third in the nation in steals per game with 3.8.

Khadrice Rollins, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Wednesday night will be a big test for Northwestern. The Wildcats (13-2, 3-1 Big Ten) travel to Iowa City, Iowa to take on the No. 22 Hawkeyes (12-3, 3-1) in a classic battle of an unstoppable force versus an immovable object.

The Cats are 5-1 on the road, with their one loss coming in their most recent road game against conference foe Ohio State. The Hawkeyes are 9-0 at home and have won by double digits in seven of these contests.

The Iowa offense is currently averaging 79.6 points per game — third in the Big Ten. The Cats, on the other hand, have the best scoring defense in the conference, only allowing 56.8 points per game.

“It’ll be a good test of how strong our defense is and how it compares against a good offensive team,” sophomore Ashley Deary said.

This game will test NU’s defense. Iowa isn’t just scoring at a high rate — it is doing so efficiently. The Hawkeyes are third in field goal percentage and first in 3-point field goal percentage in the Big Ten. The Cats possess the top-ranked defensive field goal percentage in the Big Ten and the second best 3-point defensive field goal percentage.

All five of Iowa’s players are high scorers. By comparison, NU’s last opponent, Michigan State, earned 56 of its 70 points from just three players.

“They’re a very good team,” senior Alex Cohen said. “Their five starters are all in double digits scoring-wise, just trying to contain all of their players, not just one more than the other.”

Of these five starters, three are seniors and they have experience, which coach Joe McKeown says will affect the outcome of the game.

“You’re not going to show them anything as far as surprising them,” he said. “We’re just going to have to play really, really solid defense.”

NU’s defense is looking at a tough task ahead, and it may be its offense that leads them to a victory.

The Cats are second in the conference in scoring margin and field goal percentage, both higher than Iowa. Along with that, NU is right behind the Hawkeyes in 3-point field goal percentage, as the third best shooting team from behind the arc in the conference. Iowa is 13th in field goal percentage defense and seventh in 3-point field goal defense, so the Cats should be able to excel in these aspects of the game.

“We’re a pretty up-tempo team as well,” Deary said. “So if they want to run, we’re excited to run with them. If not, we can play the half-court game as well. Either way, it’s more important for us to play our game and not theirs. Our whole focus is on us right now.”

Outsiders should admire Iowa’s high scoring offense and balanced attack, but McKeown is more focused on defeating Iowa’s defense.

“We’ve had games where we’ve had four or five players in double figures,” he said. “Coaches love that because then it becomes hard to focus in on a Nia Coffey or a Maggie Lyon. One thing that makes us dangerous is that we have seven people who can score. We’re a tough matchup if we can do that.”

This will be the Cats’ third game against a ranked team this season. The previous two were both road wins, including a double-overtime triumph over then-No. 18 DePaul and a victory in their Big Ten opener against No. 20 Michigan State.

“(We’re) very excited to play Iowa,” Cohen said. “Beating another ranked opponent would mean so much for us. Just keep the streak going. Get to the top of the Big Ten.”

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Twitter: @KhadriceRollins