Less than 48 hours ago, No. 12 Northwestern found itself in an unexpected battle with a two-win Loyola team on the road. Even though a big fourth quarter would eventually lead the Wildcats to victory, many of the starters looked exhausted by the time the final buzzer sounded.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning and Northwestern welcomed Alcorn State, a 1-5 team from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, to Welsh-Ryan for an 11 a.m. start. With such a quick turn around, an inferior opponent and a huge game against No. 15 DePaul on the horizon, one could wonder if this was perhaps a trap game for the undefeated Wildcats.
The answer was a resounding no. This was not a trap game. Northwestern dominated on both sides of the ball en route to a 91-47 win. Nia Coffey was on fire for much of the game and neared 20/20 territory with 23 points and 17 rebounds. She also added 3 assists, 2 blocks and 4 steals in what was one of her best all around performances of the season. Maggie Lyon was no slouch herself, stuffing the stat sheet with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals.
The surprise performance of the game was from Northwestern freshman Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah who contributed 4 points, 4 steals and 13 rebounds in 19 minutes of play. If Kunaiyi-Akpanah can rebound like this consistently, Northwestern suddenly becomes all the more difficult to beat, as rebounding has been one area that Northwestern has some work to do.
"Every day she's getting better; that's what we're looking for," said Coach Joe McKeown during his post-game interview. "She does one thing as well as anyone on our team, her and Nia Coffey, and that's rebound the basketball. So that's really a big thing for us."
It was a day to forget for Alcorn State, but Norianna L. Haynes submitted an admirable individual performance for the Braves, scoring 20 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. However, she also turned the ball over 9 times.
One of the most fun aspects of the game was the amount of crowd noise at a packed Welsh-Ryan Arena due to Field Trip Day. Most of the lower bowl was filled with young students who got very involved especially when told to 'get loud' by the video board. The official attendance was 5,246.
"It was fun, you know we loved the crowd," said McKeown. "I think for our players, they deserve to have five or six thousand people watch them all the time, so that was exciting for our team today."
Northwestern's next game is Saturday against No. 15 DePaul at Welsh-Ryan Arena. While the Wildcats sit at 10-0 through the first third of the season, this weekend's game will be a measuring stick for how good this team really is.