Women’s Basketball: Nia Coffey shines in final home game


Katie Pach/The Daily Northwestern

Nia Coffey drives to the basket. The senior forward’s 27 points led the Wildcats to their victory over Rutgers.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

The game was ugly, complete with passes to no one, extended scoring droughts and multiple shot clock violations.

Nia Coffey’s stat line was not.

The senior forward transcended the unsightly contest, scoring a game-high 27 points to lead Northwestern (19-9, 8-7 Big Ten) past Rutgers (6-22, 3-12) 60-38 on Thursday in the final home game of Coffey’s career.

“She was really patient,” coach Joe McKeown said. “When she got out in transition she didn’t rush, got really good looks. She played well without the basketball: came off screens, hit a 3, got to the basket on hard cuts where she got fouled. … She makes everything, even against double teams sometimes.”

The Minneapolis native was particularly efficient from the field, hitting 10-of-15 shots. That accounted for nearly half of the Wildcats’ field goals; every other player combined to shoot just 12-of-29.

Coffey was effective at the charity stripe, hitting all six of her shots at the line.

Her productivity on the fast break was also notable, as she took passes from senior guard Ashley Deary for a trio of highlight-reel layups.

“That’s our game, to push the ball,” Deary said. “We got some over the top passes, some back and forth, and made some easy shots.”

Coffey did all of her damage in just 29 minutes, scoring 27 of NU’s 44 points through the first three periods. She did not play in the fourth quarter as NU nursed a large lead and rested several of its starters.

It was a fitting way for Coffey, the first NU player to ever record 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, to close her tenure at Welsh-Ryan Arena. She scored more than 20 points for the 13th time this season and now stands just 94 points behind Anucha Browne for the all-time program scoring record.

Coffey has strung together a series of excellent late-season efforts, including a season-high 33 points in her homecoming game at Minnesota and an 18-point, 14-rebound output Sunday against Illinois. Thursday was particularly noteworthy, however, as her shooting percentage was the highest in any Big Ten game this season.

“We’ve really emphasized making our free throws and our layups, and I’ve just focused a lot on that lately,” Coffey said. “I get fouled a lot, so I just make sure I get my free throws up.”

The Cats’ leading scorer had a far better performance than in the first meeting between the two teams, in which she scored just 7 points and was limited to six field goals.

Coffey, who added six rebounds, appears to have broken from a mini-slump in which she was held to single digits three times over six games.

If NU is to make a last-ditch effort to reach the NCAA Tournament, it will likely need several improbable wins in next week’s Big Ten Tournament. But with Coffey firing on all cylinders, McKeown believes a run might just be possible.

“There’s a reason they call it March Madness, and that’s because great players show up,” the coach said. “As a senior, (Coffey) has a sense of urgency that you want her to have and a sense of leadership. (She has) the passion that she’s going to put this team on her back.”

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