In an outcome that was never truly in doubt after the first few minutes, the Northwestern women's basketball team (2-0) crushed the Idaho State Bengals (1-1) 72-36 tonight at Welsh-Ryan Arena on the back of a double-double peformance from Nia Coffey.
The 'Cats struggled a bit out of the gate, committing three fouls and finding themselves tied 3-3 with ISU three minutes into the first quarter, but a three-pointer from Ashley Deary (whose uniform number, oddly enough, is three) opened the floodgates for good. Deary followed her three with a steal and dish to Christen Inman, setting the tone for a six-steal, seven-assist night for the junior point guard and contributing to a 15-0 run that essentially put the game away. She also brought down five rebounds, and for what it’s worth, she is 5’4” tall.
“[Deary] has great basketball instincts, so she anticipates where the ball’s coming and runs down long rebounds,” coach Joe McKeown said. “She’s a great player, it’s an honor to coach her.”
NU led 20-5 after the first 10-minute quarter, with nine of the 'Cats' points coming on fast breaks. It was smooth sailing from there, as NU led 34-16 after two quarters and 50-25 after three.
It was a career night for Coffey, who put up 16 points and 18 boards (tying a career rebounding high), almost overshadowing Deary and Maggie Lyon's 17 and 18 point efforts, respectively. Coffey’s rebounding prowess guided NU to a 53-37 rebounding edge over ISU following Sunday’s lackluster performance on the boards, when Howard outrebounded the ‘Cats 45-43 in an 89-49 NU win.
But despite a great rebounding and scoring night from NU’s usual contributors, interestingly enough, the ‘Cats were consistently cold from beyond the arc, shooting just 7/24 and missing 17 of their first 20 attempts.
“We’re streaky, we’re very underrated and a little bit overrated at the same time,” McKeown said. “If you play against us we can hit 10 or 12 in a row, I’m telling you I’ve seen us do it, and we can go really cold like we did tonight. But we’ve been focusing so much on defense that I think over the next two or three weeks our offense will get better.”
That focus on defense makes NU’s poor long distance shooting night pale in comparison to the ice cold peformance NU induced from ISU from three-point range. The Bengals went 1-for-15 from deep, only breaking an 0-for-14 in the last few minutes. In NU's two games this season, its opponents have shot a combined 1-for-31 on three-pointers, and for good measure, not a single Bengal broke double figures tonight.
The 33 points the Bengals scored are the fewest total allowed by the Wildcats since last season against Loyola-Chicago on December 7, when they won 70-33.
“In practice it’s all about team defense and rebounding, so we’re just really trying to focus on keeping our intensity up and just being really aggressive on the defensive end,” Coffey said. “It’s really good that we did that but we want to make sure we can do that against teams in the Big Ten.”
The 'Cats will be back in action on Sunday when they take on the Western Michigan Broncos (3-1) on Sunday at home.