Chris Collins called Joe McKeown after the men’s team’s stunning buzzer beater victory to tell him, “now, it’s your turn.” Indeed it was, as the Northwestern women defeated Iowa in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis Thursday by a score of 78-73.
This game, just like the men’s game Wednesday, came down to the wire. And again, Northwestern was able to pull away, this time by a slightly more comfortable margin.
Northwestern led by as much as 12 with under two minutes left in the third quarter, but the Hawkeyes fought back and even took the lead late in the fourth. However, clutch rebounding and free throws by Lauren Douglas helped put the game away.
Iowa jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter. Ally Disterhoft scored five of her 18 points in the opening frame, adding an assist and a steal as well. However, Megan Gustafson led the Hawkeyes in scoring for the game with 27 points, also grabbing six rebounds.
Nobody for Iowa was able to match Northwestern’s Nia Coffey, who scored a game-high 34 points and eight rebounds. Coffey scored 21 points in the first half, tying a season-high for points in a half. But she didn’t do it alone: Lauren Douglas provided one of her best games of the season, scoring 17 points and matching Coffey’s total of eight rebounds.
Northwestern’s offense was humming on all cylinders in the second quarter, shooting 60 percent from the field. This helped give the Wildcats just enough cushion to fend off a run by the Hawkeyes in the late third and early fourth quarters.
The ‘Cats really won this game with physicality. The team out-rebounded Iowa 39-to-30, with almost all of that margin coming on the offensive glass, where NU grabbed 18 boards compared to Iowa’s 10. The team’s physical play did not come at the expense of of discipline, as the Wildcats actually committed fewer team fouls (14) than Iowa (19).
With the win, Northwestern will face top-seeded Ohio State at 11 a.m. Friday in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. Northwestern lost its only matchup of the season to then seventh-ranked Ohio State by just seven points at Welsh-Ryan Arena.