Both Northwestern basketball teams released some post-finals week aggression on a couple of local schools Sunday, with the No. 12 women's team (9-0) fending off a pesky Loyola-Chicago team (2-6) 81-72 on the road and the men's team (8-1) crushing Chicago State (3-8) 77-35 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The day started for NU basketball just a few stops down the CTA red line at Loyola-Chicago's Gentile Arena. The women's team was heavily favored against the Ramblers, but upset-minded Loyola would not lay down on its home court. After playing to a 12-12 stalemate through one quarter, LU outscored NU 22-18 in the second quarter to take a 34-30 halftime lead over a visibly frustrated group of Wildcats, who shot just 36.4 percent from the field in the first half. It was the first time NU had trailed at the half this season.
The Ramblers' height down low presented a problem for the 'Cats throughout the afternoon, as 6'2" forward Taylor Manuel got pretty much whatever she wanted to in the paint, especially when Nia Coffey got into foul trouble in the third quarter. Manuel finished with a double-double (20 points and 12 rebounds), which would have been the most impressive statline on the court had it not been for Christen Inman.
With Coffey and Ashley Deary stuck on the bench in the fourth quarter with four personal fouls each, the junior guard took over, helping the 'Cats pull away and outscore the Ramblers 26-17 in the fourth quarter to break a 55-all tie and cap off a tough road win. She finished with 25 points and five steals, mostly in Deary's stead.
"One of the things we kept saying was 'stay together,'" Inman said. "We knew we weren't playing well, but we weren't rattled by it."
Despite being outrebounded by the Ramblers 40-31 and allowing LU to shoot 60 percent in the second half, NU is now 9-0 for the second time in coach Joe McKeown's tenure. The 'Cats will be back in action on Tuesday at 11 a.m. against 1-5 Alcorn State at Welsh-Ryan.
The men's team disposed of its local opponent with considerably less drama on Sunday night. The 'Cats toyed with the Chicago State Cougars for a little while, and led just 16-13 with 7:40 left in the first half. But from that point on, NU did a whole lot of scoring, and CSU just ... didn't. NU casually pulled off a 30-4 run that extended from the end of the first half to the first five minutes of the second half that made it 46-17.
Tre Demps led all scorers with a career high-tying 23 points and was a rebound short of a double-double in a somewhat surprising 34-minute workload. Other than Demps, NU's 77 points were relatively evenly distributed (29 baskets on 24 assists), with the only other double digit effort coming from Nathan Taphorn who netted 11. What was most impressive was the defense, which, aside from allowing just 35 points, forced CSU to put up a 1-for-19 mark from three-point range and shoot just 25 percent overall.
"The emphasis coming into the game was defending the three point line," coach Chris Collins said. "We did a great job of that, and also keeping them off the free throw line. We limited the dribble penetration without fouling and defended the three point line."
NU is 8-1 for the first time since 2011-12, when the 'Cats finished 19-14 and made an NIT appearance. They will be in search of their ninth win at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Welsh-Ryan against yet another lower tier opponent in 0-11 Mississippi Valley State.