Women’s Basketball: Coffey dominates in Northwestern’s win over Illinois


Source: Austin Yattoni/The Daily Illini

Nia Coffey extends for a layup. The junior forward tallied picked up her 12th double-double of the year against Illinois on Thursday.

Will Ragatz, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Losing to the worst team in the Big Ten for its sixth consecutive loss would have been a new low in an already disappointing conference season for Northwestern. Nia Coffey was not going to let that happen.

The junior forward proved to be the best player on the floor as she led the Wildcats (14-9, 3-8 Big Ten) to a 69-59 victory over last-place Illinois (8-14, 1-10) on Thursday night. Coffey recorded her 12th double-double of the season, finishing with 20 points and 13 rebounds.

Coffey’s performance came in a game where freshman forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah scored just 3 points. With her fellow frontcourt starter providing little offensive help, Coffey stepped up and shouldered the entire offensive load for NU in the paint.

It was also an efficient performance from the Cats’ star. Coffey made 10-of-17 shot attempts and scored all 20 of her points on layups and short jumpers.

The game also featured a one-on-one matchup between the Big Ten’s top two rebounders. Coffey, who came into the game first in rebounding with 10.4 per game, battled with Illinois’ Chatrice White all night long. White sits right behind Coffey at second in the Big Ten with 9.9 rebounds per game.

As well as leading NU offensively, Coffey won the matchup on defense. She held White to 6-for-17 shooting from the floor for an inefficient 16 points. Coffey added two steals and two resounding blocks, one of which was an Illinois 3-point attempt that appeared wide open until she leapt out to the perimeter and swatted it away.

Led by Coffey, the Cats’ aggressive offense caused White to pick up three fouls in the first half. That forced Illinois’ best player to the bench for significant stretches in the first two quarters.

“White was in foul trouble, and our goal was to try to take it at her,” junior guard Christen Inman said.

Coffey also benefited from the surprising absence of Illinois 6-foot-1 forward Alex Wittinger, who has grabbed the second most rebounds on the team and tallied the third most points. Wittinger missed her first game of the season due to a broken thumb.

It wasn’t until the team’s starting lineups were announced that it became apparent Wittinger would not be playing. Her absence, and White’s foul trouble, gave Coffey plenty of room to operate in the post.

“(Wittinger has) had some big games for them as a freshman, has played terrific,” coach Joe McKeown said. “I didn’t know she was out until when you have to have your starting five in, (at the) 10 minute mark.”

Coffey played 39 minutes in the contest, and appeared to be fatigued in the fourth quarter, as she did not score in the period. However, her 12 points in the first half and dominant stretch of 8 points in 3 minutes and 14 seconds in the third quarter were enough to give NU a lead it would not relinquish.

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