By Megan O’Brien
The Wildcats welcomed Western Michigan to Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday to square off against the Broncos. Coming off a mid-week win over Idaho State, Western Michigan would be the toughest opponent to test Joe McKeown’s squad so far this season, but NU came away with an 86-62 victory.
Northwestern got things started off right with Ashely Deary draining one from behind the arc. That was three of her twelve points in just the first quarter. However, Western Michigan would not let the ‘Cats run away. Jessica Jessings and Alex Morton had eleven of the Broncos 14 points in the first period leaving Western Michigan behind 22-14 heading into the second period.
The second period was much of the same. Deary dominated offensively for the ‘Cats, adding another five points to the board in the second quarter. Western Michigan was able to keep the game close until two minutes remaining in the second period when the Wildcat defense took advantage of two sloppy Western Michigan passes that allowed Deary and Inman to take it all the way on two consecutive possessions changing the momentum of the game. Northwestern headed to the locker room up 49-29 over Western Michigan.
Coming out of the halftime, Western Michigan looked to remain within striking distance of Northwestern but turnovers plagued the Broncos. The Wildcat defense induced 24 turnovers and had 14 steals. Deary only had two turnovers for Northwestern on the day and finished with three steals.
“She’s one of the best point guards in college basketball,” McKeown said. “I am saying that objectively after thirty-something years in the game. What she does best is doing what we need to get a win. She gets the ball to the right people at the right time.”
Shipman and Jessings, of Western Michigan, helped to contribute offensively, but their combined 19 points were not enough to answer Deary who had a career high day in both points and assists. Deary had 25 points and 12 assists. Coffey also added 20 points to the board for the Wildcats while Maggie Lyon had 12 of her own coupled with six assists and five steals.
“My three ball is not falling, but I’m not really worried about it. I try not to be a one-dimensional player. I try to do some hustle plays to get my team going,” Lyon said.
Lyon emphasized the team’s focus on defense in the press conference and attributed the offensive success in the second half to the defense that allowed the Wildcats to have open looks and shut down the Broncos.
“In preseason practice and everything, our huge focus has been defense,” Lyon said. “We have a lot of veterans that can score, and that’s not our concern right now. The defense is our concern. Putting the ball in the basket will come, and being a defensively sound team is something that we have a long way to go on but we are doing a lot better with that.”
The Wildcats are back in action Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, as they take on Eastern Washington in the Lone Star Showcase.