Women’s Basketball: Northwestern’s scoring depth disappears again in loss to Maryland

Kevin Casey, Sports Editor

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Coming into Saturday, Northwestern had five players score in double digits in three of its previous four games. The only straggler was a 69-48 loss to Maryland on Sunday, where the Wildcats produced just three in double digits.

Unfortunately for NU, the Terrapins proved Saturday that the first time wasn’t a fluke.

The Cats’ offensive depth faltered in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, as the team could only get two players in double figures, sophomore forward Nia Coffey and senior center Alex Cohen.

Falling into this trap against Maryland on a second straight occasion would appear to be a troubling sign, but in the aftermath, coach Joe McKeown wasn’t fretting about the lack of diversity in team scoring.

“I think on any given night we have seven different people who could score,” McKeown said. “We had to look at different avenues (tonight) … I think we’re a dangerous offensive team, we’re not a great offensive team because we have droughts.”

Coffey was named to the All-Big Ten First Team earlier this week, and it took her little time Saturday to prove why.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 25-14 lead on the Terrapins in the first 10 minutes, mainly at the behest of Coffey, who produced 16 in that span.

That’s right, nearly a quarter of the way into the contest, the sophomore was outscoring the No. 4 team in the country.

They weren’t easy shots either. Coffey mostly mixed long jumpers with launches from beyond the arc, occasionally using her exceptional athleticism to garner a bucket at the hoop.

Cohen started off in good form as well, receiving good lucks down low and parlaying them into some early points. The senior center had shots inside for most of the contest and netted 12 points.

But NU got little else from the rest. Coffey soon cooled off, scoring two points in the next 23-plus minutes of play, and ending the night with 23 points when she fouled out with 3:32 remaining in the contest.

“We slowed down a little bit, but we’re never going to stop fighting,” Coffey said. “It took us a while to get back into things. In games like this, that really hurts us.”

The Cats found few options to replace the sophomore’s suddenly disappearing offensive contributions.

Junior guard Maggie Lyon led the way among the rest with 9 points, but no other player had more than 6.

For the second straight game, Maryland slowed NU’s offense to a near halt for a long period of time.

The Cats’ depth caved somewhat from a lack of opportunity.

NU entered the contest second in the Big Ten in turnover margin, but gave the ball away 18 times to Maryland’s eight.

“We know that they’re a really good defensive team, they put on a lot of pressure and force teams into bad situations offensively,” Lyon said. “Sometimes we played into that and that’s where the turnovers came. Turnovers aren’t our game, and that’s when we run into trouble.”

Depending on seeding, NU may have to play a Maryland-caliber defense and opponent in the second round or Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

Maintaining depth and avoiding offensive droughts will be key. McKeown has a blueprint for a tournament-ready team.

“You have to be able to defend to score, and I think that’s where the great teams that advance to the Sweet 16 and beyond,” McKeown said. “They defend and they’re able to score because they stop the other team, and that’s really important in the tournament.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter:  @KevinCasey19