Nia Coffey
Despite Nia Coffey’s 22 points, Northwestern fell to Purdue on Thursday night. Photo Credit: Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports

-By Matt McHugh

After an up-and-down start to Big Ten play, Northwestern (12-3, 1-2 B1G) had a chance to pick up a statement win against the Purdue Boilermakers (12-2, 3-0 B1G) on Thursday night. Instead, a turnover-filled night put them in a hole early, and they eventually fell 85-71.

Purdue started the game on a 7-0 run in the first two minutes, and took advantage of 21 Wildcat turnovers to hold the lead for most of the game.

“We gotta see where [the turnovers] came from,” head coach Joe McKeown said. “All our wounds were self-inflicted tonight, we’re much better than that.”

Point guard Ashley Deary had an off-night, with 10 turnovers and just 3 assists. Going into Thursday’s game, she was averaging 2.29 turnovers per game and 6.8 assists per game on the year. “I don’t think she’s tired at all. Sunday, she looked like Usain Bolt. She’s a great player. She’ll bounce back. No doubt about it,” McKeown said.

Christen Inman led the Wildcats with six assists, and only had two turnovers. She said, “[The turnovers] are definitely not something that can become a trend. It’s really uncharacteristic of us this year.”

Nia Coffey was in foul trouble early, picking up her third foul early in the second quarter and playing just 12 minutes in the first half.  As a result, Purdue was able to get whatever they wanted inside, scoring 24 of their 38 points first-half points in the paint.

“We need [Coffey’s] scoring, we need her presence. She forces double teams, so we can’t afford to have her sitting down,” McKeown said.

Freshman Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had foul trouble of her own, and she fouled out with seven minutes left in the game, and played only 12 minutes on the evening. Lydia Rohde, Jordan Hankins and Maya Jonas all played double-digit minutes, but none of them scored a point.

Maggie Lyon struggled to get her shot going early, shooting 1-7 in the first quarter, but she improved her efficiency as the game went on and finished with 24 points on 8-21 shooting.

Lyon and the rest of the Wildcats weren’t able to get their three-point game going, with Lyon going 2-8 and the team shooting 3-17 from behind the arc. The Wildcats have averaged over seven made threes per game this season.

For Purdue, their backcourt of Bridget Perry and Andreona Keys led the way, with the pair of guards combining for 39 points and 18 rebounds on 16-26 shooting. They combined that  efficient scoring effort with feisty, gritty defense.

“We weren’t as focused as we needed to be on defense, and Purdue is a good team and they really exploited that,” Inman said.

The Wildcats picked up their offense during a 12-2 run in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough to dig themselves out of the 19-point deficit from the third quarter.

The Wildcats continue conference play on Sunday when they travel to Michigan State for a 1 p.m. game that can be heard live on WNUR Sports.