“It’s good to be a Coffey,” said Northwestern women’s basketball coach Joe McKeown following the Wildcats' (1-0) season opening 89-49 victory over the Howard Bison (0-2) at Welsh-Ryan Arena, which featured a standout performance from junior forward Nia Coffey.
Unlike their male counterparts, the No. 19 Wildcats took no time to find their footing in their season opener. Following a Victoria Gonzalez layup to put the Bison in front 2-0, the home side would rip the game open with a 19-4 run, led by Coffey, who logged 11 of those 19 points. The Wildcats never looked back, as they turned a nine-point lead after one quarter into a 50-22 halftime advantage, outscoring Howard 28-9 in the second quarter.
“We really get going when we’re in transition,” McKeown said. “That’s really our bread and butter offensively.”
Howard showed signs of life in the second half, though, opening the third quarter on a 5-0 run. However, a quick five-point response from Coffey settled the ’Cats, and their dominance continued throughout the second half. Northwestern would go on to end the game on a 10-0 run, cementing a resounding victory on opening night.
It was business as usual for Coffey, who led the Wildcats with 27 points on 8-15 shooting, while also contributing seven rebounds and three assists. Coffey also notched her 1,000th career point in the first quarter of Sunday’s contest.
“Of course I’m honored to play for such an organization, so it felt good, but that’s not my main focus,” Coffey said of her achievement.
Junior guard Ashley Deary was a disruptive force for Northwestern, jumping passing lanes and darting around Bison defenders on her way to 16 points on 7-13 shooting. Deary also dished out seven assists and tallied two steals, flashing some real spark-plug potential for the Wildcats.
“We just tried to get open shots by moving the ball,” Deary said. “When we were able to box out and push in transition, the game flowed.”
Junior guard Christen Inman and senior center Christen Johnson also put forth meaningful efforts. Inman contributed 18 points, shooting 3-5 from behind the arc, while Johnson used four ferocious blocks on the day to establish herself as a defensive force in the middle for the ’Cats. Freshman guard Jordan Hankins also contributed 13 points and four steals off the bench.
“She’s a good spark for us, her aggressiveness and shooting ability can bring this team to another level,” Coffey said of Hankins.
The Bison were lead by senior center Victoria Gonzales, who tacked on 21 points and collected nine rebounds on the night. But she also accounted for seven of Howard’s 26 turnovers on the night, doubling Northwestern’s total of 13.
Senior guard Maggie Lyon struggled in the first game of her final season at Northwestern, tallying three points on just 1-8 shooting. Sunday marked the first game since March 2, 2014 in which Lyon did not make a three-point shot. Northwestern as a team, though, shot well from three-point range, converting 7-of-19 chances, and outscoring Howard 21-0 from behind the arc.
McKeown stressed his confidence in Lyon, and said three-point shooting is part of his team's identity.
“We’re a really streaky three point shooting team, but we do a good job when we can spread the floor and are able to drive it at people and get out in transition," McKeown said. "We’re streaky right now though. Coaches hate streaky.”
The Wildcats will look to build off their inspired performance when they continue non-conference play against Idaho State (1-0) on Thursday, November 19 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.