No Valentine’s Day is complete without drama, and there was plenty of it today in Ann Arbor.
Northwestern was outplayed most of the day. The Wildcats were down 10 at halftime, both point guards were in foul trouble, and Maggie Lyon was scoreless in the first half. But Northwestern battled, clawed back, and with just 20 seconds left, had cut the Michigan lead to 63-62.
Northwestern fouled Madison Ristovski to send her to the line. She missed both, but Michigan’s Cyesha Goree grabbed the offensive rebound. However, Goree missed both of her foul shots too, and Coffey grabbed the rebound. Coffey ran coast to coast, and with just 4 seconds remaining, made a layup to give Northwestern the lead. It was the only lead Northwestern had all game, and it was the only one they needed. Somehow, NU escaped Ann Arbor with a W.
Coffey's layup gave Northwestern its fifth win in a row, and pushed the Wildcats' record to 19-6 overall, and 9-5 in the Big Ten. It was a huge road win over a fellow bubble team.
It was fitting that Coffey was the one who hit the winner for Northwestern. The sophomore notched yet another double-double in a sparkling effort, scoring 25 and grabbing 11 boards. Coffey has a little point-forward in her, as she loves to lead the break for NU. Sometimes she’ll turn it over, but a big forward who can handle the rock is rare, and it asks a lot of questions of the defense.
Maggie Lyon too had a good game, but it took her a full 20 minutes to get going. After an empty first half, she finished with 12 points and 4 rebounds. With Coffey bringing her game to the next level, Lyon has had to take a little bit of a backseat in recent games, but she is still the best spot-up shooter on the team, and she needs to be dialed in to open up space on the interior, especially with Christen Inman still hurt.
Lauren Douglas’ return has been key for Northwestern too. Douglas, who started as a freshman, has moved into a sixth-player role, and is an efficient scorer and an effective defender. She draws a bunch of offensive fouls and is long and quick enough to guard a number of positions. Douglas' offense has been slow to pick up since returning from injury, but today she picked her spots well and scored 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting, including 2 made threes. Douglas will play a key role for Northwestern the rest of the way both as a microwave off the bench and someone who can spell either Coffey, Lyon, or even Alex Cohen.
NU has one more game against lesser competition (on the road against Wisconsin), and has 3 games against ranked opponents, all in Welsh-Ryan, to close out the season. One win should be enough to get into the Big Dance and two should be enough to lock it. If Christen Inman can return to full health soon, NU should be in prime position to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997.