EVANSTON -- No. 15 Northwestern women's basketball easily defeated Milwaukee 69-44 behind 21 points from Nia Coffey and 12 from Ashley Deary.
Northwestern was not at its best offensively, but the team comfortably led for most of the game and defensively dominated Milwaukee. Northwestern picked up seven blocks and 21 turnovers. The Wildcats also held Milwaukee to 20.3 percent from the field and 10.7 percent from three. With the victory, Northwestern will certainly remain in the AP top 15, released on Monday.
"The game was a little bit of a trap game coming off North Carolina... Tonight Milwaukee took us out of the game a little but Nia stepped up and we made some plays when we had to," Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown said.
In the first quarter, Northwestern struggled early with some turnovers and only led by six. However, the Wildcats built the lead up to 16 in the second quarter and never looked back. Coach McKeown took the opportunity to rotate his squad more after last week's trip to Chapel Hill, as Jordan Hankins and the bench unit got some extended play in the second half. Northwestern's core four of Coffey, Dreary, Maggie Lyon and Christen Inman played well, as usual, but Northwestern continues to use non-conference games to give other players more experience.
To start the second half, Milwaukee went on a 9-4 run that cut the lead to eleven. Northwestern did not play very well in the third quarter, but Milwaukee failed to take any advantage of Northwestern's sloppy play. Northwestern had five turnovers in the third quarter but Milwaukee did not hit enough shots or free throws to stay in the game. Northwestern built the lead back up to 17 by the end of the quarter and went to win the game by 25.
Coffey was the majority of Northwestern's offense, picking up a double-double and leading the team with 21 points. She had a 31.35 percent usage rate in the game and also blocked three shots. Deary nearly got a double-double with 12 points and eight steals. Inman and Lyon did not shoot well by their standards, but it did not matter as Coffey was able to pick up most of the scoring. Northwestern improved to 8-0 heading into its finals week break.
Notes from the game:
Ashley Deary is a machine
Please take a moment to appreciate how absurdly well Ashley Deary is playing. If you thought Bryant McIntosh has been Northwestern's best point guard thus far, just wait until you see Deary's numbers. Deary is averaging 5.3 steals per game! She's a full two steals ahead of the next best player in the Big Ten. She is also averaging 16.4 points per game and leading the Big Ten in assists per game. Every contest, Deary is seemingly guaranteed to steal at least one inbounds pass and get at least six points on fast breaks that she creates. Oh yeah, and she is shooting a staggering 51.4 percent from the field and over 40 percent from three. Deary has been a major contributor to the team's 8-0 start and has been absolutely invaluable on defense and offense. One more incredible stat: Deary is averaging four rebounds per game even though she's only 5-feet-4-inches tall.
Northwestern's rebounding issues continue
Northwestern's rebounding issues continued to hurt them against Milwaukee. Northwestern was out-rebounded in the first half 25 to 24 and gave up 17 second-chance points to a fairly small Milwaukee team. Northwestern has only out-rebounded one team this year, but it has survived because the defense is able to force turnovers and has players that shoot well from outside. If Milwaukee had shot better from the field, Northwestern might have been in real trouble. Fortunately, Milwaukee was completely disorganized and could not string together enough makes throughout the whole game thanks to Northwestern's heavy defensive pressure. Milwaukee's 28 three-point attempts also led to many of the second-chance points that hurt Northwestern.
"Against Carolina I think we did a job on the weak-side glass. Today we let them get inside and that's big concern as we move forward and get ready for Big Ten season," McKeown said.
While Nia Coffey had 14 rebounds, the team's next-highest rebounder only had five boards. Once again, Lydia Rohde got some playing time with the main starters in the stead of Christen Johnson and Maya Jonas to get some extra size. Northwestern continues to rotate through a fifth starter to play alongside its main four starters. Because today's game featured a three-way rotation between Jonas, Rohde and Johnson, we have no idea who McKeown will play on a regular basis.