Women’s Basketball: Northwestern earns first Big Ten win with 23-point rout over Nebraska

Garrett Jochnau, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

If Thursday’s loss to Penn State called into question the legitimacy of Northwestern’s No. 14 rank, Sunday’s double-digit rout of Nebraska reaffirmed the Wildcats’ status as a top Big Ten team.

NU (12-2, 1-1 Big Ten) downed the visiting Cornhuskers (9-4, 0-2 Big Ten) 85-62 to earn its first win of the new year.

“We challenged our team defensively in practice,” coach Joe McKeown said. “I love how they responded today. They came out ready to play.”

Nebraska opened with the contest’s first basket, but NU’s subsequent 17-0 run left the Huskers in a deep hole from which they never emerged.

Though NU didn’t add to its lead immediately before or after halftime, a 24-point final period from the Cats allowed them to dance away with the commanding win.

Junior forward Nia Coffey led the Cats with 25 points and 17 rebounds, good for her Big Ten-leading ninth double-double of the season. She also added four blocks and three steals.

“Thank goodness she’s only a junior,” McKeown said about his superstar.

Coffey’s big day was complemented by junior guard Christen Inman’s 25 points and five assists. Her team-leading five three-pointers — the team hit a collective 12 — were a career high.

“It really just helps me get into a flow offensively,” Inman said on her team-high 17 first-half points. “I just want to do anything I can to help my team … Scoring those 17 points, it helped put my team ahead.”

Junior guard Ashley Deary turned in a balanced performance, finishing with 15 points, eight assists, eight steals and six rebounds.

Her trademark scrappy defense proved crucial as the Cats won the turnover battle to garner momentum during their first- and fourth-quarter runs.

“I tell (Deary) once a week that she’s the best point guard in the Big Ten,” McKeown said. “When she plays like that, it’s just awesome to watch.”

Though NU dominated along the perimeter, it also gained a strong advantage inside. On the heels of a loss to Penn State in which the Cats struggled on the glass, the team managed a season-high 57 rebounds.

The rebounding effort, which Coffey said is dependent on how much “heart” the team brings, showed what the Cats are capable of in an area that many deem to be their biggest weakness.

“We just really want to focus on having really efficient, hard practices and have that translate to the game,” Coffey said. “So we’re just going to take everything and learn from it and keep moving forward.”

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