Women’s Basketball: Coffey’s dominant third quarter leads Northwestern comeback, but team ultimately falls short

Will Ragatz, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Late in the third quarter of Northwestern’s loss to Minnesota, Nia Coffey knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner. On the Wildcats’ next possession, she hit a mid-range jumper. On the possession after that, she swished another shot from downtown.

NU’s star forward almost couldn’t miss in the third period. With her team in danger of being blown out by Minnesota (12-6, 4-3), Coffey stepped up and willed the Cats back into the game.

The junior forward from Minneapolis scored 19 of her 27 points in the third quarter, displaying a vast array of offensive moves as she led NU (13-6, 2-5) on a comeback charge. In the final 2:18 of the period, Coffey scored 10 straight points without missing a field goal attempt, and finished the quarter 7-of-10 from the field.

Things didn’t always come up roses for Coffey, as she was limited by foul trouble in the first half. She picked up two fouls early in the first quarter and another in the second, and was held to four points in just eight minutes of action in the half.

With its best player on the bench for long stretches, NU struggled to hang with Minnesota’s high-scoring offense. The Golden Gophers put up a whopping 52 points in the first half and led the Cats by 11 at the break.

With less than 90 seconds gone in the third quarter, their lead had grown to 16. That’s when Coffey took matters into her own hands.

Coming into the game, Coffey was averaging 18.9 points per game. She eclipsed that mark in the third period alone, and she did it with baskets from all over the court. Coffey scored in the paint, from mid-range, and, most surprisingly, from beyond the 3-point line.

Before Wednesday’s game, Coffey had made just 14 3s and was shooting 26.4 percent from deep. Against Minnesota, she knocked down 3-of-4 attempts from long range.

When the third-quarter buzzer sounded, the score was tied at 74. The Cats put up 33 points in the period and completely erased their deficit, even taking a two-point lead on Coffey’s third 3.

Coffey’s performance showed her ability to take over a game, and exemplified the resilience NU showed in fighting back from a large deficit. Unfortunately, her heroic effort went to waste as she scored just four points in the final quarter and Minnesota pulled out a narrow victory.

“We played great, to come back and make it a great game,” coach Joe McKeown said. “We took the lead and we just couldn’t hold it.”

The Cats will need more of that resilience if they are going to turn this season around. After losing five of their first seven conference games, NU will need Coffey to stay hot for entire games like she did in the third quarter on Wednesday.

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Twitter: @WillRagatz