The Northwestern women’s basketball team (18-9, 7-7 B1G) got its second win in a row against Rutgers (6-21, 3-11 B1G) on Thursday night, edging out the Scarlet Knights by a score of 60 to 38. Despite an abundance of turnovers, senior Nia Coffey had one of her best showings of season and tallied her 13th game of the season with over 20 points.
After losing four straight games earlier this month the Cats were happy to walk away with another win. With Christen Inman on the bench for the fourth time this season due to haphazard injuries, the ‘Cats were down one of their leading scorers, but Coffey compensated with 27 points and was able to keep Northwestern ahead. Coffey led the Wildcats in scoring and was second in rebounds, with six, and she didn’t even play during the fourth quarter.
A 9-0 run in the first 10 minutes of play put the Wildcats up 16-8 at the end of the first quarter, and at the same time Rutgers faced a seven minute scoring drought. The momentum carried over to the second quarter, where NU capitalized on trips to the free throw line and led by 10 going into the locker room.
The game was full of back and forth action, as turnovers plagued both teams and their offenses. Northwestern contributed 21 of the game’s 38 and struggled to hold possession despite the 22 point win.
“[It was] just being careless with our passes,” junior guard Ashley Deary said. “We just passed around a ton on defense instead of taking care of the ball.”
The third quarter started out slow, with no scores in the first two minutes of play, but the ‘Cats were able to pull away with free throw makes and layups, which Coffey mentioned the team has been emphasising in practice this week.
With 9:36 left in the game, Deary drew her fourth foul, giving freshman Byrdy Galernik the opportunity to earn her most game minutes at Northwestern. Galernik finished out the game for the Wildcats and contributed three assists and two points, but McKeown said she was able to run the offense efficiently in place of Deary which will be important for the future of the team.
Galernik wasn’t the only young player to close out the game, either. At the time of the final buzzer there were no seniors on the floor: Galernik was joined by juniors Maya Jonas and Oceania Hamilton, sophomore Amber Jamison and freshman Abbie Wolf.
“It’s always great seeing our young girls step up and seeing them involved, especially that group out at the end of the game,” Coffey said. “Those are going to be the girls playing next year, so it’s awesome seeing them progress and playing well.”
McKeown said he was impressed by the younger players’ performances, noting that they don’t all typically play together but shifting around lineups is essential at this point in the season.
“If we aspire to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament it’s gotta be all of us,” he said. “Last year we played four games in four days - it’s not like you have two or three days. You need to get some experience and depth on the floor, so I think that helped us tonight.”
Northwestern travels to West Lafayette, Indiana, on Sunday to wrap up the regular season, then heads to Indianapolis for the conference tournament. NU’s chances of making the NCAA Tournament are slim, but to do so they would need a good showing at Purdue followed by a successful run in the Big Ten Tournament.