Women’s Basketball: No. 25 Northwestern faces big games to close out the regular season


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Alex Cohen guards the inbounds pass. The senior is a part of a class that has seen the Wildcats slowly grow into an NCAA tournament contender.

Claire Hansen , Reporter

Women’s Basketball

After claiming a spot in the AP poll for the first time since 1996, No. 25 NU (21-6, 11-5 Big Ten) is returning home to face No. 20 Rutgers (20-7, 11-5) on Thursday, followed closely by No. 5 Maryland (25-2, 16-0) on Sunday.

Hot off a seven-game win streak, the Wildcats sit poised to attack their next opponents.

“I think we’ve really proven in the last few game that we are fighters and we are not going to lay down and let them beat us,” senior center Alex Cohen said. “We’re feeling really good right now.”

The Scarlet Knights and the Terrapins, both Big Ten newcomers, are NU’s final foes before the start of the Big Ten tournament.

Rutgers and NU are tied for third place in the Big Ten with 11 conference wins apiece.

Statistically speaking, Thursday’s game is promising to be nothing if not exciting.

NU sits in second place in the conference in field goal defense, right under Rutgers, who edged them out for the top spot. The Scarlet Knights and Cats are third and fourth respectively in field goal percentage in the Big Ten.

As for a plan to slow down Rutgers’ robust offense, NU is focused on turning up the heat.

“(We’re focusing on) pressuring them defensively,” senior guard Karly Roser said. “They’re not the best shooting team, so if we can stop the drive and contain the ball we should be all set.”

The Cats offense is looking to play a calm game, but that is easier said than done against a swarming Scarlet Knights defense. The peaceful approach is not to be misconstrued as weakness, though, as NU’s “calm” set will be attempted through tactical, aggressive play.

“We can attack their defense,” Roser said. “They’re known for their pressure defense, but lately we’ve been pretty poised and been minimizing the turnovers.”

“Pretty poised” may be an understatement. NU is first in the Big Ten in turnover margin and also claims the top spot in steals. But Rutgers is close behind, taking third place in both categories.

With so much success on their heels and just two games yet to play in the regular season, it’s hard for Cohen and Roser to avoid reflecting on their journey as Cats players.

This year’s team is the first NU squad to earn 20 or more wins since the 1995-1996 season.

“Our seniors came here to a program that wasn’t that good and they just bought into things that Northwestern had to offer,” coach Joe McKeown said. “You have to have a vision.”

Cohen said that she’s always kept that vision in perspective.

“Knowing that we were going to come in here and help build a program was really special,” she said. “Coming from where we were as freshmen to where we are now has been an interesting journey — but an amazing one — and we’re really happy with way the season is going. It’s a great way to go out.”

Yet, before Roser and Cohen can close out their last regular season in Welsh-Ryan Arena, they know that they have hard work to do.

Right now, Roser said, they’re just focusing on going “day by day.”

Sophomore forward Nia Coffey, who leads the team in points and rebounds, said that above all, the Cats will be resilient in the coming week.

“Our goal is to play hard. We are not backing down,” she said. “We are going to play our game, play how we know we can play and hopefully we can come out with the win.”

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Twitter: @clairechansen