Women’s Basketball: Northwestern’s comeback attempt falls short in Minnesota


Daily file photo by Allie Goulding

Nia Coffey competes for a jump ball. The senior’s 33-point effort was wasted in Monday’s loss to Minnesota.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

Northwestern finally snapped out of its offensive funk. But it still wasn’t enough to get a win.

The Wildcats’ miraculous charge from a 12-point halftime deficit ultimately fell short, as Minnesota guard Carlie Wagner scored 25 points and the Golden Gophers (14-12, 5-8 Big Ten) executed down the stretch to snag a 71-61 win over NU (17-8, 6-6) on Monday in Minneapolis.

It was the Cats’ third consecutive loss, and the likely death knell for the NCAA Tournament hopes of an NU team that was in line for a top-four Big Ten finish little more than a week ago.

“Hard fought game on the road,” coach Joe McKeown said. “Minnesota played really well down the stretch, made plays. It was a really, really good game.”

The Cats wasted a sensational effort from Minneapolis native Nia Coffey, who led all scorers with 33 points and added nine rebounds. The senior forward was a perfect 12-of-12 at the free throw line and piloted NU’s third quarter rampage, but was held quiet in the fourth as Minnesota pulled away.

The Golden Gophers held NU scoreless for more than three minutes in the final period and outscored the Cats 25-13 in the final 10 minutes, allowing Minnesota to regain its first half advantage.

The closing period was reminiscent of the first half for NU, which scored just 24 points and made only seven field goals before the intermission. The Cats only lead before the break came in the opening minute, and Wagner singlehandedly equaled NU’s 10 first quarter points.

“We were just a little more patient offensively, we got better shots. We came out with a lot of fire,” McKeown said.

As a result, the Cats’ 13-1 run over the opening four minutes of the second half was unexpected. Coffey keyed it, scoring 14 points in the third quarter alone, and NU took a 2-point lead into the final 10 minutes.

That changed in the fourth quarter, however. Coffey struggled and none of her teammates picked up the slack. Ashley Deary scored 11 points, but nobody else entered double figures. Seniors Christen Inman and Lauren Douglas combined for just 8 points on 4-of-19 shooting, and NU made just two 3-pointers.

“When you don’t let (a bad quarter) impact you negatively, and you respond, because it’s a game of runs … great things will happen,” Minnesota coach Marlene Stollings said.

It was only the latest dispiriting performance for NU, which has been unimpressive since an eight-day layoff following a victory over Michigan State on Jan. 17. The Cats are just 2-4 since the game against the Spartans with wins over cellar-dwelling Rutgers and Wisconsin, and losses to Penn State and Minnesota that sit far below NU in the Big Ten standings.

If the Cats snap the losing skid — their next opportunity is Thursday at Iowa — McKeown said rebounding and fourth quarter execution must improve from Monday.

“We just have to do a better job rebounding the ball,” he said. “Not being able to keep them off the foul line in the fourth quarter was (also) a big difference for us.”

This story was updated at 9:10 p.m. with quotes.

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Twitter: @ckpaxton