Women’s Basketball Friday: Three Phases
WNUR’s Ben Goren (@BenG412) examines last night’s win for Northwestern women’s basketball and looks ahead to their Sunday matchup against Penn State.
Northwestern basketball completed a season sweep at Assembly Hall last night, as the women dished the Hoosiers their 6th loss of the year by a score of 58-52, while the Wildcats improved to 14-7 and an impressive 4-4 in conference. It was a hair-pulling, logic-defying, exasperating, big win. The Wildcats surrendered 20 offensive rebounds, lost the turnover battle 14-8, shot 17.6% from three, and saw their all-everything freshman Nia Coffey exit after just 7 minutes with an apparent lower body injury. Yet the Cats gritted and grinded their way to a much needed, resume-building road win as the quest for the Big Dance looks to pick up steam.
Northwestern, as they have all year, did a great job shutting down their opposition’s number one scoring option. Indiana’s own Frosh of the Year Award candidate, Larryn Brooks (who rocks a mean haircut), who leads the Hoosiers with 17.4 ppg and 4.25 assists per contest, was harassed into a 3-16 night, scoring just 7 and missing all 8 of her 3-point attempts. There’s a reason why NU is the 2nd best field goal percentage defense in the conference. While the patented blizzard defense didn’t force a lot of turnovers, it stopped Indiana’s guards from getting loose. But with the trapping zone, as Bill Carmody defenses could attest to, come open bigs and an open offensive glass. Lyndsay Leikem more than quintupled her season average scoring 18, while Indiana got off 15 more field goal attempts than Northwestern thanks to an aggressive and concerted effort to grab offensive rebounds. Alex Cohen, to her credit, grabbed 10 boards and stuffed 4 shots, but if Northwestern is to continue to win games, the low post D needs to improve.
As it has since the first day Nia Coffey stepped on campus, the offense was centered on getting the Minneapolis native the ball early and often. But after struggling from the floor, shooting 1-6 from the floor, and then having to leave the game with an injury, Northwestern had to turn elsewhere to get the job done. And Lauren Douglas did the job in a big way. The sophomore went 5-10 from the floor and 2-5 from distance to lead the Cats with 16 points. Maggie Lyon, Ashley Deary, and Christen Inman also picked up the slack, scoring 14, 12, and 9 respectively. Deary’s 12 is the real story here. While the diminutive point guard has been among the conference and country’s best dropping dimes, if she could become a true scoring threat in the half court, the court gets that much bigger for everyone else.
While it’s hard to poke holes in an offensive effort when your leading scorer goes down, since scoring 15 in a loss at home against Illinois, Lyon is just 3/16 from three. If Coffey does end up missing any time, Northwestern is going to need Maggie Lyon to be Freshman of the Year Maggie Lyon, who shot 35.1% from three for the year.
Indiana, going into the game, was 10th in the B1G with a firmly mediocre 71.2% clip from the charity stripe. Their free throw percentage now stands at 69.4%. The Indiana Hoosiers shot a decidedly un-Hoosier-like 6/20 at the foul line. Northwestern, meanwhile, had 5 less attempts, but out scored the Hoosiers by 7. They’re free for a reason, but Indiana was intent on paying a hefty interest rate.
Also of note, welcome back Karly Roser! The Honorable Mention All-B1G selection saw her first minutes of her junior year, playing 5 minutes. Clearly Roser is still shaking off the rust, but the prospect of having two solid point guards is great news for a Northwestern team that has backcourt depth issues. Christen Johnson and Devon Brookshire also played key minutes for the Cats spelling the Cohen and Douglas.
Waiting next for the Wildcats are the #13 Nittany Lions of Penn State, led by Maggie Lucas, whose list of awards and watch lists are longer than my entire resume. Lucas, who averages 21.1 ppg, is joined by fellow senior Ariel Edwards, a 6-3 forward from Elmont, New York, who herself averages a not-too-shabby 14.6 points and grabs 5.5 boards. Make no mistake, Penn State is going to be favored and they’re going to be favored for a reason. But this is a hungry Northwestern team who, at home, has knocked off 3 top 25 teams. Anything’s possible, but a Coffey-less Northwestern is going to have to be firing on all cylinders if they want to knock off Penn State. The game will be on Sunday at 1:00 PM. Like every women’s B1G game, you can catch it on WNUR.