Tuesday’s matchup between the Northwestern Wildcats (15-14, 4-13 B1G) and the Michigan Wolverines (17-11, 9-8 B1G) featured the fourth-ranked rebounding team in the Big Ten. Can you guess which team that may be?
If you guessed Northwestern, you’re actually correct. The ’Cats boast a rebounding rate of 40.9 boards per game, compared to their opponent, Michigan, who ranks eleventh in the conference with 36.5 per game.
Those numbers, though, don’t quite reflect the events that took place on the court at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Tuesday night, as Michigan beat Northwestern 70-65, while also pulling in 17 offensive boards and outrebounding the 'Cats 42-27.
It never felt like the Wildcats were out of it, though. Northwestern led 14-13 after one quarter of play and only trailed by five at halftime. Even in the third quarter, when Michigan’s improved three-point shooting threatened to crush the ’Cats, NU fought back. They eventually turned a deficit of 13 at one point in the game into a final margin of only five and forced Michigan to play to the final whistle.
“They made shots and we got cold,” head coach Joe McKeown said. “I think we did a good job… to battle back and give ourselves a chance to win.”
The Wildcats once again received major contributions from their forwards. Nia Coffey led all scorers with 22 points and also emphatically swatted a career-high six of Northwestern’s 11 total blocked shots for the game. Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah registered a double-double, scoring 14 points and corralling 10 rebounds on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting night.
“[Pallas] definitely brings momentum and energy to the team… She’s definitely a game-changer,” junior guard Ashley Deary said.
Michigan was led by freshman center Hallie Thome, who had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
On a separate note, Deary recorded six steals in the game, pushing her season total to 125. This set a new all-time Big Ten single-season steals record.
Tuesday also potentially marked the final time senior Maggie Lyon will play in Welsh-Ryan Arena.
“My focus tonight was the game,” said Lyon. “Thinking about it now, it’s a little more emotional than it was before the game, but we’re just trying to string together some wins and focus on that game against Nebraska on Sunday.”
McKeown spoke of the seniors contributions, saying, “they were the heart and soul of turning [around] this program and the culture of it.”
A once promising season for the Northwestern women’s basketball team appears all but lost now. The ’Cats will look to generate some kind of momentum going into the Big Ten Tournament in their final regular season game at Nebraska (17-10, 8-8 B1G) on Sunday.