Northwestern women's basketball is really good. Any doubt of that was dispelled four minutes into today's game against UNC as the No. 15 Wildcats sprinted out to a 15-2 lead en route to an easy 85-72 win at Chapel Hill that wasn't even as close as the score indicates.
It was a complete domination on both sides of the ball early as Northwestrn shot 51 percent from the field and scored a season high 52 points in the first half. In the second half, The Tar Heels made a late run to cut their deficit to nine with about two minutes left to play, but it wouldn't be enough as a Maggie Lyon three-pointer put the Wildcats back up 12 late and allowed them to coast to victory.
Lyon led the way for the Wildcats, scoring 31 points on 10-18 shooting while also hitting four triples. The rest of the team was hot as well as four different players scored in double digits. Nia Coffey had 22 points and 11 rebounds while Christen Inman and Ashley Deary scored 16 and 12 respectively. In fact, 81 of Northwestern's 85 points came from these four players.
For North Carolina, Xylina McDaniel scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds and N'Dea Bryant contributed 16 and 9 in the losing effort.
The winning formula for the Wildcats was simple: force turnovers on defense and turn those mistakes into points. UNC turned the ball over 18 times tonight, leading to 25 points for Northwestern. Deary once again led the charge as one of the nation's leaders in steals picked up another 5 today.
On the offensive side of the ball, it was all about three-pointers for Northwestern as the Wildcats knocked down nine triples on the night. Lyon was 4-of-8 from deep and drilled the game-clinching three. Coffey and Inman both contributed two makes from long-range as well.
The first half was the best the Wildcats have played all season but in the second, many of the team's weaknesses were exposed, especially rebounding. Cleaning up the glass was a problem last year and now that Alex Cohen is gone, it appears it will be a problem once again. UNC outrebounded Northwestern 46-37 and had 19 offensive rebounds. This dominance on the boards is what allowed the Tar Heels to get back in the game and is something that may prove to be a problem as the season progresses.
Another thing to watch is the lack of depth on the bench for Northwestern. While 10 players did see the floor for the Wildcats, only six played 10 minutes or more and Christen Johnson only saw the floor for 11. Right now, it looks like Coach McKeown's go-to lineup is Deary, Inman, Lyon, Coffey and Jonas. The starters have been playing well so far, which has allowed this team to get through some rough patches, but if more than one key player has an off night, the Wildcats will have some issues.
Future concerns aside, Northwestern traveled to Chapel Hill for their first real test of the season and passed with flying colors. While the team probably would have been more happy keeping its 20+ point lead for the entire game, a 13-point win on the road against a power five conference team is nothing to laugh at.