Top seeds in women’s basketball simply don’t lose. The top seed in the Big Ten didn't lose Saturday in Hoffman Estates, Ill., as Maryland smacked back Northwestern 74-63 in the semi-finals of the Big Ten Tournament.
For the first 15 minutes, Northwestern was outplaying the 4th-ranked Terrapins. Nia Coffey was splashing everything she took, NU was forcing turnovers, and they were even winning the rebounding battle, but that could not, and did not, hold.
Maryland grabbed more than 20 offensive rebounds, making their sub-35 percent shooting night nearly irrelevant. What makes it all the more frustrating is that NU’s bigs, Coffey and Alex Cohen, combined for 35 points and 15 rebounds, one of the duo's better days. But Maryland’s Brionna Jones was just too much to handle and Northwestern’s zone could not find bodies to box out.
Coffey ran the show for the Wildcats, finishing with 23 points and 7 rebounds, but was forced to sit out for nearly the last 4 minutes of the game after picking up her fifth foul. Coffey scored 18 first half points, but when she stopped scoring, Northwestern couldn’t find anyone to pick up the slack.
Maggie Lyon scored 9 on 4-10 shooting before fouling out. Ashley Deary didn’t hit an outside shot. Lauren Douglas couldn’t buy anything. Christen Inman, probably still nursing an injury, wasn’t much better. No matter how well Cohen and Coffey played, Northwestern was going to need everyone to be on their A-game to beat one of the best teams in the entire country. Quite simply, it didn’t happen.
What happens now is anyone’s guess. Northwestern has a handful of pretty good wins (Nebraska, Rutgers twice, and DePaul stick out), and only one bad loss (Penn State). All year, we’ve been saying how important it is to avoid being seeded between 7 and 10. That’s because the 1- and 2-seeds in the women’s game are just on another level, as this game showed.
All NU can do now is sit and wait to see who they’ll play in the NCAA tournament. With a good draw, this team can make a pretty decent run in the dance. Not many teams have 7 players as good as NU’s rotation. Unfortunately, Maryland is one of those teams.