Women’s Basketball: Northwestern fades late against No. 20 DePaul


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ashley Deary guides the offense. The senior guard and the Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season Saturday at DePaul.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

CHICAGO — Playing without its best player against a ranked team on the road, Northwestern survived the first push. But it had no answer for the second.

No. 20 DePaul (3-0) scored the final 10 points of the second quarter, then pulled away in the second half en route to an 89-66 win over the visiting Wildcats (3-1) on Saturday night.

Guard Claire McMahon hit a pair of 3s and the Blue Demons went on a 13-1 run to close the first half and give DePaul a 38-30 lead at the break. Senior guard Ashley Deary said that run was “definitely a momentum changer, but it wasn’t demoralizing,” and NU chipped away and cut its deficit to 4 points midway through the third quarter.

A Blue Demons timeout stopped the Cats’ run, however, as NU scored just 4 points over the next three-plus minutes. The hosts extended their lead to 15 by the end of the quarter, scored 51 points in the second half and led by 31 at one point in the fourth.

“DePaul played really well in spurts and they got hot at the right time,” coach Joe McKeown said. “They played well defensively, and we didn’t answer that.”

NU struggled to contain guard Jessica January, the Big East’s preseason Player of the Year. She shot an efficient 10-of-15 from the field and led all scorers with 25 points. The senior also added six rebounds and six assists and put an exclamation point on the third quarter with a running 3-pointer to beat the buzzer.

“She should’ve come to Northwestern,” McKeown said with a laugh. “I recruited her too.”

With senior forward Nia Coffey sidelined by an upper-body injury for the second straight game, senior forward Lauren Douglas started in her place and was the high scorer for the visitors with 18. Deary chipped in 14 points on 6-of-15 shooting and added six assists.

Defensively, the Cats struggled against a high-powered Blue Demons offense. DePaul shot 48 percent from the field and hit 15-of-35 shots from 3-point range. The Blue Demons’ 43 percent clip from beyond the arc was slightly higher than NU’s overall field goal percentage.

“We let them hit some shots. Instead of attacking them, they attacked us,” Deary said. “Being more aggressive and being more sound on defense was our biggest key that we were missing in the third quarter.”

The game was the latest in a string of memorable recent matchups between the two local rivals. The Cats won tight affairs in 2013 and 2014 in a series that McKeown this week called “a really good rivalry.” The Blue Demons have now won two straight, however, and kept NU from a signature road win over a ranked team.

Instead of securing a resume-building road victory, the Cats return to Evanston saddled with their first loss of the season and facing another tough test Friday against No. 19 Florida. McKeown, disappointed but not dispirited, said his team still has plenty of time to develop into a complete one and knock off top teams.

“We’ve got Florida next, who is a really good team,” McKeown said. “You’ve got to learn something tonight and then move forward.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ckpaxton