Women’s Basketball: Coffey leads the charge in another Northwestern stunner


Keshia Johnson/The Daily Northwestern

Nia Coffey leaps for the shot. The junior forward scored 19 points in the first half, in addition to notching her 17th double-double of season, to lead the Wildcats to Friday’s upset win.

Cole Paxton, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Nia Coffey was determined to extend Northwestern’s stay in Indianapolis at least one more day.

The junior forward finished with 26 points and added 11 rebounds as the No. 12 seed NU (18-15, 4-14 Big Ten) won at the Big Ten Tournament for the third straight day with a 79-73 quarterfinal defeat of fourth-seeded Indiana (20-11, 12-6 Big Ten).

Coffey scored in double-figures for the 48th straight game and recorded her 17th double-double of the season.

“She’s played with a lot of poise. She’s a great player,” coach Joe McKeown said. “So you’re going to need her both mentally and physically in this kind of tournament.”

The Minneapolis native, who finished 11-of-23 from the field in 39 minutes of play, did most of her damage inside. She hit just 1-of-4 3-pointers and went 3-of-8 at the free throw line, including two late misses as the Cats sought to close the game out.

The jump-shooting woes were no matter, however. The 6-foot-1 Coffey regularly overpowered Indiana defenders. She attacked the rim with regularity, finishing with a Hoosier in her face on multiple occasions.

Coffey frequently drove from the 3-point line using her superior athleticism to cut through defenders left and right. But she also attacked the offensive glass — though she finished with only four offensive rebounds, she scored a pair of put-backs late in the second quarter and finished with 8 second chance points.

“I just try to take advantage of every opportunity,” Coffey said. “If it’s a jump shot, if it’s going to the rim, if it’s a drive and kick, just whatever comes.”

Coffey also recorded four blocks, including a pair of forceful rejections of shots from Indiana guard Tyra Buss.

On a day where other NU players at times struggled offensively, Coffey’s contributions were much needed. Though junior guards Ashley Deary and Christen Inman both finished in double figures and hit key shots late in the game, Coffey single-handedly carried the load in the first half.

She had 19 points at the break while none of her teammates had more than 4. Coffey hit eight of the Cats’ 15 field goals in the opening two periods.

Her strong play has also helped alleviate the absence of senior guard Maggie Lyon, who has missed all three of NU’s tournament games with an injury. Coffey scored 18 points in Wednesday’s win against Wisconsin, then led the Cats with 25 in Thursday’s defeat of Minnesota.

Because of the setting and Lyon’s absence, Coffey has had to elevate her play. But McKeown said he hasn’t seen Coffey’s mindset change significantly.

“This whole tournament, she’s just been letting the game come to her a little bit,” McKeown said. “She’s being aggressive, but she’s not taking shots that are out of the flow of what we’re doing.”

Coffey said that she has focused on drinking water and stretching to get through three games in as many days. On Saturday, NU meets the tournament’s top seed and No. 5 Maryland, a team that Coffey shot just a combined 11-of-32 against this season in two losses.

Her offensive numbers on Friday, however, stood out and propelled the Cats to victory.

“Nia Coffey…can score on all three levels,” Indiana coach Teri Moren said. “She’s a very difficult matchup. She’s just a tremendous player.”

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