It was going to be tough for a struggling Northwestern women's basketball team to beat No. 5 Maryland on Sunday, but a 25-5 first quarter hole certainly didn't help matters. The 'Cats were able to claw their way back into the game, but the early 20-point deficit proved too large as NU (14-12, 3-11 B1G) fell 79-70 to Maryland (23-3, 12-2 B1G) on Senior Day at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The first quarter was basically the worst-case scenario from start to finish for the 'Cats. Northwestern didn't get on the board until a Maggie Lyon three-pointer, but that only made it 14-3 in favor of the Terps. That was the only bucket of the quarter for NU, who only added to their total with a couple of Christen Inman free throws with 11 seconds left in the quarter.
As the horn sounded, Maryland lead 25-5 and appeared to be cruising. Maryland's Shatori Walker-Kimbrough scored 11 points in the first 10 minutes, setting the tone for her game-leading 27-point performance, to go along with eight rebounds, three assists and four steals.
The next three quarters, on the other hand, were much more competitive. Northwestern was able to chip away, albeit slowly. The rally started in the second quarter, when the 'Cats outscored the Terps 13-11. But the 'Cats were never able to cut their deficit to any smaller than 14 during the quarter, and Maryland had doubled NU by halftime, leading 36-18.
Maryland continued to be in complete control after halftime, jumping out to its largest lead of the game, 46-22, just two minutes into the third quarter. Finishing off Northwestern would prove much more difficult than that, however. With a balanced scoring attack, the 'Cats strung together an extended 24-10 run over the last eight minutes of the third quarter to cut Maryland's lead to just 56-46 by the start of the fourth quarter.
After a back-and-forth first half of the final quarter of play, another Lyon three-pointer followed by a Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah lay-up cut Maryland's lead to 65-60 with 5:34 left, the closest NU had been since it was 5-0 in favor of the Terps. That was as close as the 'Cats could get, though. Maryland made the majority of its free throws down the stretch and never let Northwestern get any closer than seven points en route to a 79-70 win.
The stats for this game were astounding, to say the least. Northwestern actually won the turnover battle 24-16, and shot a whopping 54.5 percent from the field in the second half after shooting just 16.2 percent (6-for-37) in the first half. But Maryland was hot throughout, actually improving on its shooting percentage in the second half (from 53.8 percent in the first half to 58.3 percent), despite being outscored 52-43 in the half.
On Senior Day, Lyon led all NU scorers with 25 points, going 3-for-6 from beyond the arc. Nia Coffey quietly notched another double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Ashley Deary impressed, too, scoring 11 to go along with nine assists. She also grabbed three steals, putting her just 14 away from the Big Ten single-season record with four regular season games remaining.
At this point, the 'Cats are trying to sneak into the WNIT, and their next shot to finish their disappointing season on a high note will come on Wednesday night, when Penn State visits Welsh-Ryan Arena.