There was plenty for the No. 19 Northwestern women’s basketball team to be thankful for over the November break, as the Wildcats (6-0) left Cedar Park, Texas with three wins in the Lone Star Showcase. The Wildcats’ stars came to play, and their top foursome led Northwestern to a pair of close wins and one blowout over the week. NU was the only team to finish the event with no losses.
The Wildcats opened up with a Thanksgiving Day matchup against the Eastern Washington Eagles (3-4). It seemed like it would be a lopsided encounter, but the Eagles proved to be anything but easy to beat, and NU led just 33-32 at halftime. But the Wildcats started to pull away in the second half, leading by as much as 11 in the third quarter. The Eagles kept it close down the stretch, but Northwestern guard Christen Inman, a Texas native, helped the ‘Cats clinch a 74-70 win with a career-high 28 points. Fellow junior and Texas native Ashley Deary tacked on 13 points, 10 steals and seven assists for Northwestern, while senior Maggie Lyon recorded her third career double-double with ten points and the same number of rebounds.
After escaping with a four-point win on Thursday, Northwestern seemed to have a much easier time of it against Creighton (4-2) on Friday. After struggling to shoot effectively against the Eagles, the Wildcats shot 49 percent, including 60 percent from beyond the arc against the Blue Jays. Maggie Lyon led the way with 21 points (including five three-balls) and Nia Coffey chipped in a 16 point/10 rebound double-double effort. NU's lead increased to as many as 28 in the third quarter and while the Blue Jays were able to chip away with the Wildcat starters out of the game, Creighton never really got close, eventually falling by 23 points, 75-52.
Northwestern’s blowout win was followed by another narrow escape. Taking on an East Carolina team that had received votes in the coaches' poll, Northwestern walked out of Cedar Park on Saturday with their perfect record intact, but just barely. Northwestern got off to another sizzling start, opening the contest with an 8-0 run, but from there, the Pirates (6-2) took over, grabbing an 11-8 lead.
The Wildcats regained control in the second, heading into the halftime break with a 37-26 lead. The third quarter was the best quarter for the third time for Northwestern, as the Wildcats continued to surge out to a 16-point lead late in the period. Unfazed, the Pirates battled back to take a 75-74 lead with only 1:21 to play in the game, but Inman made a jumper and two clutch free throws to put her team on top for good. In its toughest test of the campaign thus far, Northwestern outlasted East Carolina 78-75 to seal the Lone Star Showcase victory.
Lyon led the way once again, tying her career high with 26 points to pace her side. Coffey recorded her third double-double of the season through just six games with 17 points and 12 boards. The Pirates held the edge in rebounds and free throw percentage, but the Wildcats shot 40 percent from long distance and outscored their fellow purple-wearers in the paint to escape with a three-point victory.
Northwestern gets a short break before traveling to Chapel Hill for their first true road game of the season against 4-3 North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Wednesday, December 2 at 5 p.m. Central Time. The 'Cats will return home on Sunday to face the 2-2 UW-Milwaukee Panthers at 2 p.m.