In what an extreme optimist might call an “exciting defensive battle,” and what the rest of us would call a relatively unexciting game, Northwestern women’s basketball (17-5, 6-3 B1G) defeated last-place Wisconsin (5-16, 0-9 B1G) 63-43 Wednesday night.
Poor offense plagued both teams throughout the night: Wisconsin shot 32.7 percent from the field (and a dismal 21.4 percent from three), and the ‘Cats were marginally better, shooting 40.7 percent on the night. However, the ‘Cats were actually shooting worse than Wisconsin from the field through three quarters, but a 24-point fourth quarter helped shift the tide.
Wisconsin played with a similarly slow pace that its men’s team has become famous for, and the normally offensively powerful Northwestern seemed stymied by the Badgers’ 3-2 zone, especially early in the game.
Although Northwestern led for the entire game after the first basket, Wisconsin kept the game closer than it probably should have been for much of the night. The ‘Cats’ lack of shooting allowed the Badgers to stay in it. A 5-0 Wisconsin run brought the game within one point during the second quarter, but NU ended the half an 8-0 run (while holding Wisconsin scoreless for over seven minutes) to make it 24-14 at the half. The game stayed within Wisconsin’s reach, though, and they brought the lead down to single digits after a 6-0 run toward the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the ‘Cats finally put it away. A three-pointer by Amber Jamison with 6:50 to play put the lead at 13, and the Badgers never got closer after that, with a barrage of baskets by NU leading to the eventual 20-point victory.
Northwestern leading scorer forward Nia Coffey dominated the first quarter with seven points and six rebounds, but she was eventually shut down by her own unforced errors: Coffey sat almost the entire second quarter after getting tagged with her third foul early in the period. She managed to stay on the court for most of the third, but a fourth foul on the first possession of the final period sent her to the bench for much of the quarter. Still, she finished with a game-high 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Coffey’s foul trouble forced others to step up throughout the game, and guard Christen Inman gladly took the challenge in her first game back from injury, pouring in 14 points, largely coming from a number of midrange jumpers. However, Inman exited the game with five minutes left after falling and limping to the bench. Amber Jamison also contributed 11 points and a career-high five assists.
Inman and Coffey – with the help of guard Ashley Deary – combined to make the play of the night early in the game. After a steal by Inman, she launched it cross court to Deary who immediately dumped it off to Coffey under the hoop for an easy layup - all without the ball touching the ground, remnant of a famous play by the Golden State Warriors earlier in the season.
In its next game, NU will take on Penn State at home on Sunday.