Women’s Basketball: Northwestern falls to Maryland again despite good start

Khadrice Rollins, Reporter

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — In this season of impressive feats, Northwestern will have to settle for coming close after getting bounced in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

The No. 24 Wildcats (23-8, 12-6 Big Ten) were unable to get revenge against No. 4 Maryland (29-2, 18-0), as they lost on Saturday at the Sears Centre, 74-63.

It was the Nia Coffey show in the first half as the sophomore forward looked unstoppable against the Maryland defense early. Coffey made 7-of-12 shots in the game’s opening 20 minutes, including two 3-pointers. She was the game’s leading scorer and rebounder at the halfway point as she posted 18 points and grabbed four boards.

“My intentions were to just go out there and play hard,” Coffey said of her play early on.

It was not just the offensive production of Coffey that allowed NU to build a lead as large as 11, the defense contributed as well.

The Cats started off with the same energy and defensive intensity they showed in the second half of their previous contest.

Despite being the best shooting team in the conference, Maryland had a difficult time making shots against NU, as the Terrapins netted under 30 percent of their attempts for most of the opening half.

“We came out ready to play,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We played as good a 15-, 16-minute stretch as I thought maybe we played all year.”

Unfortunately, the Cats were unable to keep up the defensive pressure. Maryland got hot late in the half, and on the strength of a 17-4 run it took a 36-31 lead into the break.

In the second period, Maryland stayed hot and NU did not have a way to cool it off.

The Terrapins fired on all cylinders coming out of the break, putting on a display similar to what they produced at Welsh-Ryan Arena on March 1.

“I felt like we came out with a lot of energy in the second half, but they were just knocking down shots,” junior guard Maggie Lyon said. “They were getting inside-out touches. We just weren’t knocking down shots and that just happens sometimes, it’s not always a perfect game.”

Maryland was not shooting much better than it did in the first half, but it dominated NU on the glass. The Terrapins proved they deserve to have the best rebounding margin in the conference, as they collected seven more boards than the Cats in the second half, including 13 on the offensive end.

“(We were trying) to force them to take 3s,” McKeown said. “They took a lot of 3s. And what really hurt us during that stretch, when we did force them to take long shots, we didn’t rebound it. Gave them second chances. And that really, that just to me was the difference in the game.”

While the NU defense did not perform to its usual standard for most of the game, the offense did not provide much relief. The Cats scored just 10 points in the first 12 minutes of the second half.

But NU would not stop clawing. After trailing by as many as 19, the Cats would cut Maryland’s lead down to 8 with just three minutes remaining, but that was as close as they got.

Coffey and Lyon both fouled out, and NU was unable to finish its comeback without its two leading scorers. Maryland knocked down some free throws late and walked away with a 74-63 victory.

“I think it has been a great experience for us,” McKeown said. “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of negatives that will come out of the Big Ten tournament.”

Coffey led all scorers with 23 points and senior center Alex Cohen contributed 12 points and a team-high eight rebounds in her final Big Ten Tournament game.

Although it may hurt, this contest does not mark the end to the Cats’ season. NU expects to receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997 and will have a chance to remove this sour taste from its mouth.

The team will have to wait a few weeks until it gets back on the court, but that may be a good thing.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity for us to take some time off and regroup,” McKeown said. “Like you saw tonight, these guys will be ready to play.”

Email: khadricerollins2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @KhadriceRollins