Women’s Basketball: Maggie Lyon’s career night leads Wildcats to victory over North Carolina

Will Ragatz, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Senior guard Maggie Lyon set a new career high with 31 points as Northwestern hung on for an 85-72 victory against North Carolina, continuing its undefeated season.

Junior forward Nia Coffey added 22 points and 11 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season. Junior guards Christen Inman and Ashley Deary combined for 28 points, with Deary dishing out nine assists. In total, four players scored 81 of NU’s 85 points against the Tar Heels.

The Cats (7-0) used a dominant first quarter to build a lead they would never relinquish.

NU came out of the gate scorching hot, scoring the game’s first 11 points, including three quick 3s. It ran the lead up to 19-2, making 8 of its first 10 shots, before North Carolina (5-4) began to show some signs of life offensively.

However, NU didn’t take its foot off the gas, trading buckets with the Tar Heels to take a 28-11 lead after the first quarter.

In that first period, just about everything went right for the Cats. They shot 57 percent from the floor, 50 percent from beyond the arc, and forced four UNC turnovers.

“No matter who the opponent is, we like to push the ball,” Lyon said. “The shots we hit early kind of fueled everybody’s confidence.”

Leading NU in the first period were Lyon and Inman, who combined for 17 of the Cats’ 28 points.

Coffey said she wasn’t surprised by how dominant her team played early on.

“Everything that we do in the games, we do in practice,” Coffey said. “We’re just happy that we’re playing the way we are.”

NU continued to expand its lead in the second quarter behind the stellar play of Coffey, who scored 12 of her 18 first half points in that second period.

Despite UNC offering more resistance, the Cats outscored the Tar Heels 24-18 in the second period, taking a 52-29 lead into halftime.

North Carolina came out strong in the second half, starting the third quarter on a 9-2 run. The Tar Heels held NU without a field goal until a layup by Lyon with less than six minutes remaining in the quarter stopped the drought.

“Carolina, you knew they were going to make a run at some point,” coach Joe McKeown said.

UNC cut the lead to 14 at 56-42, but that’s as close as it would get in the quarter. NU got back into a groove offensively and finished the period on a 15-6 run that gave it a 71-48 lead heading into the final quarter.

Just like Coffey did in the second, Lyon put up 12 points in the third quarter, using a barrage of 3s and layups to fend off the Tar Heels’ run.

After the game, McKeown was thankful for his two best players.

“I’m glad I had Nia Coffey and Maggie Lyon on my team,” McKeown said.

UNC went on a furious charge to cut the lead to single digits in the fourth quarter, but was never able to find an answer for Lyon.

When the Tar Heels opened the final period with a 13-4 run, Lyon drove to the hoop and finished through contact for a 3-point play to push the lead back to 16. UNC followed that with a 9-2 run to cut its deficit to 9, but Lyon responded with her fourth 3-pointer of the night to put the game away.

“Maggie, as a senior, is just showing tremendous toughness, kind of like ‘I’m not gonna let my team lose,’” McKeown said.

Xylina McDaniel scored 22 points for UNC, which shot just under 40 percent. Second-leading scorer Jamie Cherry, who was averaging 15.4 ppg coming into the game, scored just 4 points and was 0-of-6 from the 3-point line. The Tar Heels outrebounded NU 46-37 but shot just 3-of-21 as a team from beyond the arc.

NU returns to Welsh-Ryan arena for a game against Milwaukee on Sunday.       

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