Northwestern is a small-ish team that is more comfortable on the break than banging down low in the halfcourt. But against Idaho State, that went straight out the window.
The Wildcats rode an insurmountable athletic advantage to a 53-37 rebounding edge and with it, a comfortable 72-36 victory.
Northwestern’s offense wasn’t exactly firing on all cylinders. Northwestern shot 38.4% from the field and just 29.2% from beyond the arc. Even the foul shooting was an issue as the ‘Cats hit just 52.9% of their freebies.
“It wasn’t pretty tonight. We got a little sloppy,” head coach Joe McKeown said. “Offensively we’ve got to do a better job of just not getting in such a hurry, and that’s something we’ll work on this week.”
The good news? Northwestern attacked the offensive glass with reckless abandon. Seven Wildcats grabbed at least one offensive board. At one point, Maya Jonas had 5 offensive boards in 5 minutes of playing time. The Bengals just had no answer.
Northwestern were lead by their big three of Coffey, Lyon, and Ashley Deary. Lyon shrugged off a slow start shooting the ball to finish with 18 points on 8-18 shooting. Even though she never really found her stroke from beyond the arc (just 2-9 from deep), she was a monster from the mid-range. Northwestern loves to run her off of screens to get her open from 15 and she doesn’t miss those often.
Nia Coffey struggled with foul trouble for a little bit but was still way too much to deal with for anyone on Idaho State. She rattled off 16 points and tied a career high with 18 rebounds.
Deary was her usual pesty self tallying 17 points, 7 steals, and 7 assists. But what was most impressive was her 5 rebounds. “She has great basketball instincts so she anticipates where the ball’s coming, she runs down long rebounds,” said McKeown. “She’s a great player, I gotta tell you. It’s an honor to coach her.”
For Northwestern, Idaho State provided an opportunity to try some things out. They rotated a number of different players at the 5, including Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, Maya Jonas, and Christen Johnson. For now, Joe McKeown has the senior Johnson as the starter, but conceded that the kind of “center by committee” approach is something that will probably continue.
“Christen has stepped in and earned that fifth [starting] spot right now. For us to be good, everyone has to contribute. Sometimes there are going to be different styles of play you’re going to play against. I think it’ll be a little situational too,” McKeown said.
Northwestern was a world apart from Idaho State in…well in everything. They were far more athletic, far better coached, and they executed far better. Northwestern just went out like a top 20 team and flexed their muscles for 40 minutes. They got to clear the bench, work through some rotations, and coast to a very easy victory. There’s not much more you can ask for from a game against a very bad team. Good teams don’t mess around with Idaho State. And Northwestern sure didn’t mess around tonight.