Women’s Basketball: Northwestern faces crucial test at Michigan

Khadrice Rollins, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

The Wildcats will take their four-game winning streak to Ann Arbor, Michigan, on Saturday, as they get set to battle the Wolverines.

This will be a rematch of a game that Northwestern (18-6, 8-5 Big Ten) lost 73-66 last month.

Since the previous contest, the Cats have gone 5-2 while the Wolverines (14-10, 6-7) have been just 2-5.

For NU, this game is about more than just avenging a bad loss. It is about getting closer to a bid for the NCAA tournament. Although three of the Cats’ four remaining games after Michigan are at home, all of those contests are against teams that are currently ranked in the top 25. Along with putting the Cats in good position for the Big Dance, a win against Michigan could help determine where NU ends up ranked for the Big Ten Tournament.

Currently, the Cats are tied for fifth in the conference with Minnesota and are just one game out of third place. On the flip side, the Cats are only two games ahead of Michigan, which sits at eighth in the standings. A slip up Saturday with the difficult stretch to close out the season could be extraordinarily detrimental.

Add in the fact that sophomore guard Christen Inman was day-to-day according to coach Joe McKeown earlier this week, and there could be a decent amount of pressure on the NU players who take the court Saturday.

The Cats will be reliant on sophomore forward Nia Coffey, who has been putting up big numbers since their loss at Penn State on Jan. 25. Coffey has produced four consecutive double-doubles for NU and has averaged 18.6 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in the five contests since the unfortunate loss in University Park, Pennsylvania.

NU will also need to hope the turnover woes that plagued the team in the first game with Michigan do not re-appear. The Cats gave the ball away 21 times in the game in Evanston and only forced 12 Michigan turnovers, a very uncharacteristic showing from a team that has the best turnover margin in the Big Ten.

The Cats will not only need to improve their ball protection going into this revenge game, but also their rebounding. Although NU only lost the overall rebounding battle by one in the first game, it allowed Michigan to grab 14 offensive boards. This is right on track with what the Wolverines average on the season, so NU will have to work to keep Michigan off the glass. And considering the Cats were out-rebounded by 13 against Purdue on Wednesday, this will be a challenge for NU.

For the Cats to take care of business Saturday, the team will need to continue to show the composure and grit that got them this far, because nothing will come easy in conference.

“We’re going to know the scout, we’re going to listen to the coaches, we’re going to play our game and just play hard,” Coffey said.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @KhadriceRollins