By Matt McHugh

The Northwestern Wildcats, fresh off of a win at North Carolina, returned home and beat the Milwaukee Panthers 69-44 on Sunday afternoon. Junior Nia Coffey led the scoring effort for the Wildcats, with 21 points on 9-for-18 shooting. The Wildcats are now 8-0 on the season.

“This was a little bit of a trap game for us,” Coach Joe McKeown said. “We played flawlessly in the first half against UNC. [Milwaukee] was a scrappy hard-nosed team that took us out of our game a little.”

Junior Ashley Deary continued her hot start to the season, with 12 points and eight. Her aggressive defensive play has sparked Northwestern’s transition offense all year, and that held true on Sunday. The Wildcats had 24 fast break points and 16 points off  21 Panthers turnovers.

“You have to have an attack mentality, you have to make decisions quickly and be confident with them so you don’t turn it over in transition,” Coffey said.

Deary and Coffey did not have much time to rest in the first half, playing 18 and 19 minutes respectively. Both players were on the floor for the entire first quarter, and have averaged over 33 minutes per game this season. The Wildcats were able to give their bench some extended playing time in the fourth quarter, with freshmen Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, Amber Jamison and Jordan Hankins all getting significant minutes.

“We have to get our bench going,” McKeown said. “We want to be able to go 10 or 12 deep. That’s going to be a key to success for conference play.”

The Panthers tried to get their offense going from deep, but found little success, shooting just 2 of 14 on threes. They struggled from behind the arc, shooting just 3-for-28. Freshman Steph Kostowicz was Milwaukee’s lead scorer, with 13 points on 5-of-18 shooting.

“We knew they were turnover prone, so we wanted to get a hand in their face and force them into mistakes,” Deary said.

The Wildcats will take a week off for finals before playing Loyola in their next game on December 13.