Three Phases #2: Phase Harder
WNUR’s Ben Goren (@BenG412) examines last night’s loss for Northwestern women’s basketball and explains how this team could make noise in the next month.
There are losses, there are tough losses, and then there’s what happened Thursday in Welsh-Ryan Arena. Northwestern trailed by as much as 14 in the first half and eventually tied the game at 68 with under 30 seconds left. Then, as Siera Thompson turned to split a double team, she fell to the ground and a foul was called on Maggie Lyon. Thompson hit both foul shots, an Ashley Deary layup rimmed out, and the game was over. Northwestern fell to 14-9, Michigan is now 15-8. It was a game that Northwestern maybe didn’t need to win, but you felt that it was one they might wish they had as the quest for postseason basketball continues.
Maggie Lyon has put together back-to-back big nights for the Cats. After dropping 26 and picking up 6 assists in a loss versus Penn State, she added another 16 last night, adding 5 boards and 5 assists. With Nia Coffey still nursing an injury, Lyon had to become more of a volume scorer, shooting 10 more field goals than anyone else in purple. Christen Inman continued her absurdly efficient shooting, scoring 14 on 8 shots, Ashley Deary went an uncharacteristic 2-3 from deep, and the team shot 48.1% from the floor, and 57.1% on three-pointers, overall a pretty productive offensive performance. Still, maybe it’s a sense of paranoia or an inability to be satisfied, but Northwestern could have done better. Rushed jumpers early in the shot clock and a measly 14 points in the paint ultimately cost the team down the stretch. Would there have been a more successful inside game if Coffey were healthy? Yes. But a more concerted effort to run through sets and try and open up Alex Cohen or Lauren Douglas would have been a useful wrinkle in an offense predicated on perimeter jumpers.
The Wildcats on the season held their opponents to 35.4% shooting from the floor. Michigan shot 50.9%. Making matters worse, they snagged 9 offensive rebounds. The game was lost on the defensive end of the floor. Michigan essentially ran two plays that the Wildcats couldn’t seem to stop. One was to run Siera Thompson behind a screen on the wing and open her up for a three. Northwestern rarely got over the screen, and Thompson scored 25 points and went 5-8 from beyond the arc. The other was a baseline, to a high-low post pass to open up Cyesha Goree. Without Coffey playing at 100%, the Wildcats struggled to match Goree’s athleticism, and the junior scored 16 points. Northwestern improved on the defensive glass in the second half and were only outrebounded by 4 on the evening, not a terrible effort against the team with the best rebounding margin in the B1G. Stopping Michigan is not an easy task, as all of their players are legitimate scoring threats, but Northwestern failed to knock the Wolverines out of their rhythm and only forced 13 turnovers. Overall, it was a C- defensive game for Northwestern.
Only 7 Wolverines played yesterday, and Paige Rakers played less than 30 seconds. 4 players were on the court for longer than 34 minutes, the two others played 27 and 25. Yet somehow, it seemed like as the game went down the stretch, the Wolverines looked to get stronger. They stayed out of foul trouble, played organized zone defense, and only pushed the tempo occasionally. Whoever runs the conditioning regimen deserves a pay raise, these ladies can run for days.
On the other side of the coin, all of a sudden, Northwestern is a deep team. Scary deep. 9 Wildcats played, all of whom had an impact on the game. Coffey provided useful low post defense and rebounding despite playing through pain, Devin Brookshire knocked down a big three (but turned it over 3 times in 10 minutes), Meghan McKeown hit back to back triples, and Karly Roser, working back from injury as well, showed flashes of her play that made her an Honorable Mention All-B1G selection last year. Being able to run 9 deep lets Northwestern push the tempo, play aggressive defense, and just be more creative in how they operate. When Roser and Coffey get back to 100%, look out. They’ll need all hands on deck if they want to beat Iowa on Monday, who are 18-6 and fresh off an upset over Penn State at University Park. Game time will be 6 PM, and like all games, you can catch it on WNUR.