The Daily Northwestern

Women’s Basketball: Strong defense, woeful Rutgers offense carries Northwestern to victory

Ashley Deary defends an opponent. The senior tallied five steals as Northwestern’s defense led it to victory.

Ashley Deary defends an opponent. The senior tallied five steals as Northwestern’s defense led it to victory.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ashley Deary defends an opponent. The senior tallied five steals as Northwestern’s defense led it to victory.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

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Women’s Basketball

Falling into a deep offensive funk, Rutgers didn’t score for the final 5:20 of the first half. And whatever coach C. Vivian Stringer told the team at halftime didn’t work.

The Scarlet Knights were no better to begin the second half, failing to score for nearly four minutes and missing every field goal until the third quarter was more than half over, a harbinger of Northwestern’s (16-5, 5-3 Big Ten) 55-37 win Sunday in Piscataway. Rutgers (6-16, 3-6) scored just 12 points over the second and third periods combined, tallied 20 turnovers and shot 14-of-56 from the field — good for the lowest scoring output of any NU opponent this season.

“I thought we did a great job today, just defensively about as good as I thought we could play in stretches, and I thought that changed the game,” coach Joe McKeown said.

Four days after being torched at Michigan, the Cats, who allow opponents to shoot just 37.3 percent from the floor, returned to their ways. Rutgers guard Shrita Parker, who has matched her career-high twice in recent games and averaged 19 points per game over the previous three contests, scored just 9 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

“That was a big focal point after Michigan, and I think we carried it out,” McKeown said of the overall defensive effort.

Senior guard Ashley Deary tallied five of the Cats’ 11 takeaways, and NU committed only eight fouls. The Scarlet Knights shot just two free throws over the first three quarters.

Rutgers’ scoring struggles were unsurprising beyond NU’s defensive reputation. At 52.5 points per game, their scoring average is the worst in the Big Ten by a significant margin. The Scarlet Knights are also last in the conference in field goal percentage and second-to-last in 3-point shooting.

A week after scoring an uncharacteristically high 71 points at Maryland, Rutgers reverted to its usual offensive self, failing to crest 40 points for the fifth time this season. On the day, the hosts scored just 8 points in the paint — in contrast to NU’s 16 — and finished 2-of-12 on layups.

The Cats rolled to victory despite offensive struggles of their own. A 22-point third quarter helped NU put the game out of reach, but the Cats committed 18 turnovers and suffered from an underwhelming 7-point performance from senior forward Nia Coffey.

The 55 points NU scored marked its second fewest of the season. Entering Sunday, the Cats’ lowest point total in a win was 64. NU last won a game with fewer points on Feb. 23, 2013.

But Rutgers ultimately struggled more, a product of both the Cats’ defense and the hosts’ own offensive issues. And once it found that extra gear and left Rutgers in the dust, NU emerged with an impressive road win against a program with rich history.

“I’ve coached a lot of games here going back to 1989, so I’ve seen everything here,” McKeown said. “It’s good to get out of here with a win, it’s hard to do.”

Twitter: @ckpaxton