Three Phases- The Next Phase
WNUR’s Ben Goren (@BenG412) recaps the season for Northwestern women’s basketball and looks ahead to next year.
Where did it all go so wrong? As February started, Northwestern was 14-7, fresh off a home win over an 18th ranked Nebraska and a road win over Indiana. Then the wheels fell off. 2 tough losses against Penn State and Michigan, a 6 point loss at Iowa, 4 big losses, an overtime win against cellar dweller Wisconsin and a loss against Ohio State, and NU finds themselves 15-15. While technically still eligible for the NIT, one must figure the 10th team in the B1G is firmly on the outside looking in. Is there reason to be excited for the future? Absolutely. But a team this talented should not close the season going 1-8.
Karly Roser showed against Ohio State that she is ready to re-take the reigns of the team at the point guard position. 11 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and most importantly, 1 turnover, has to put the soon to be senior in the drivers seat for the PG battle. But there may not be enough court to go around. With Ashley Deary vying for all-freshman honors and with Morgan Green coming in, the #60 recruit in the nation, Northwestern looks to be 3 deep at point guard. All three may well be good enough to play 20+ minutes a night, but unfortunately games aren’t 60 minutes long. The PG battle will be the offseason story at NU.
Elsewhere, Lauren Douglas, Maggie Lyon, and Nia Coffey showed why they will be building blocks for the future. Scoring 15, 23, and 17 respectively, Northwestern’s big three continue to hassle even the best defenses in the conference. Maggie Lyon looks comfortable in the Kobe Bryant-esque “volume-perimeter-scorer-role”, Douglas is putting up 6th player numbers that makes Tre Demps jealous, and Nia Coffey is, well, Nia Coffey. On their day, these three can go shot for shot with the best.
Remember when I said Northwestern needed to guard the perimeter to snap the losing streak? I was proven right by Ohio State. The Buckeyes hit 11/25 from deep, with Ameryst Alston scoring 30 on 4-9 from 3 and Martina Ellerbe scoring 16 behind 4-6 from downtown. Northwestern’s defense faltered down the stretch. In all their losses in the last 9 games of the year, the Wildcats gave up more than 70. With the exception of DePaul, all of Northwestern’s best performances came by shutting down the opponent: 71-68 in a win over Purdue, 63-59 in a win over Nebraska, 66-65 in a loss against Nebraska. When you run as much as NU does, it makes sense that you would give up more points, but the way NU conceded this year is troubling. The Wildcats were 3rd in the conference in field goal percentage defense, but 10th in scoring defense. Northwestern is dead last in defensive rebounding percentage, grabbing a measly 63.9% of defensive rebounding opportunities. Northwestern’s rebounding margin of -7.7 put them at 330th out of 343, just edging out Lipscomb and Longwood. If Northwestern wants to make it over the hump, players like Alex Cohen and Lauren Douglas need to rededicate themselves to keeping teams off the offensive glass.
15-15 will not be an acceptable record next year. At every position, with perhaps the exception of center, Northwestern will be deep and talented. At the point, Roser, Deary, and Green will all be legit players. At the 2, Christen Inman has established herself as an efficient scorer and incoming freshman Alexis Glasgow might make an impact as well, and if Inman can increase her range, she becomes a legitimate 15 points per game type player. At the 3, Maggie Lyon has showed that she can put up numbers quickly, and if Devon Brookshire continues to develop, she might find her way into the rotation. At power forward, Northwestern may be the deepest in the Big Ten. Both Coffey and Douglas have showed they can pile up points on the block and on the perimeter. Incoming freshman Maya Jonas, despite her talent, may not get on the court simply because Douglas and Coffey are too good. Alex Cohen may well be the deciding piece. Despite her touch and shot blocking ability, her poor rebounding numbers need to come up. Unless Allie Tuttle makes a huge jump, Cohen is going to be the only true 5 on the roster. Anything short of a post season appearance for a team with so many impact players would be a massive disappointment. Can the team do it? I’d like to think so. But there’s a lot of work ahead if NU wants to put the disappointment if this season’s ending behind them.