Northwestern was unable to maintain the momentum from its upset win over Ohio State, and was solidly defeated by No. 8 Maryland 80-62. Maryland's skill was on full display all day as they were never really threatened by the Wildcats and controlled the pace of play on both sides of the ball.
It was an inauspicious start for Northwestern (13-5, 2-4) as Maryland (16-2, 5-1) jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead within the first two minutes and forced head coach Joe McKeown to burn an early timeout. Maryland cooled off a bit as the quarter progressed, but Northwestern was ice cold, only scoring 13 points on 5-of-21 shooting.
Despite only scoring 17 points, the second quarter was a huge improvement for the Wildcats. They shot 7 of 14 from the field and, more importantly, held Maryland to 18 points. However, the sequence of the game occurred in the last 40 seconds of the half. A Maggie Lyon and-1 cut the Maryland lead to 8 and it looked like Northwestern would be in solid position heading into the half. Then in the next 27 seconds Kristen Confroy hit a three pointer and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough completed an and-1 and suddenly the Terrapin lead was back up to 14.
Northwestern would continue to play well in the third quarter, but would never get it as close as they did at the end of the second. The entire second half saw Maryland have an answer for every Northwestern run as the lead was around 10 for most of the half. The highlight of the game for Northwestern came at the end of the third when Ashley Deary hit a buzzer beater from 60 feet away.
The shooting woes would return in the fourth as the Wildcats finished shooting 2 of their last 15 from the field only scoring 9 points in what was a slow and ugly end to the game.
Northwestern was led by the encouraging play of Nia Coffey who had 19 points and 9 rebounds while playing with an ankle injury. Inman and Lyon both had 13 points as well. Maryland was led by the sharpshooting of Kristen Confroy who had 24 points and 10 rebounds on 8 three pointers and Brene Moseley who had 17 points and 7 assists.
Following the loss, Northwestern falls to 13-5 on the year and 2-4 in the Big Ten, with its next game against a solid Minnesota team at the Barn on Wednesday.
Ohio State is a decent matchup for Northwestern, Maryland is not
While Ohio State was ranked higher than Maryland, the biggest difference was the fact that the Terrapins pose such a matchup problem for Northwestern. The two things that the Wildcats struggle with are rebounding and depth. Unfortunately these are two of Maryland's biggest strengths and that showed Sunday. Northwestern was out-rebounded 52-31 for a margin of -21 their worst of the year. Maryland also managed to pull in 17 offensive rebounds for 13 second-chance points. It's tough to beat any team when you have to make two or even three defensive stops every possession.
The other aspect of Maryland's play that makes it so hard to beat is that its depth. The team realistically goes 11 deep, although not everyone plays. The Terps have the luxury of not being doomed when some of their best players have off nights. Even more importantly, head coach Brenda Frese can rest her players and no one has to play all 40 minutes. Finally, they have one of the best players in Big Ten, Brene Moseley, coming off the bench providing the team with instant offense. These matchup problems combined with Northwestern's poor shooting were just too much for the Wildcats to overcome.
Nia Coffey looks to be okay, but not 100 percent
One of the few bright spots for Northwestern was the play of Nia Coffey. After Coffey went down with an ankle injury against Ohio State and couldn't return, it was unclear how healthy she would be going forward. Much of those worries were dispelled Sunday as Coffey came one rebound away from a double-double and generally looked pretty good in a tough matchup against Maryland's large front court. However she did seem to not be totally at 100 percent as she was blown by a couple times on defense and had a couple of miscues on offense. Coffey's health is of the utmost importance to this team and is certainly worth watching moving forward.
Northwestern is going to be okay
Northwestern may be 2-4 in the Big Ten but it really is going to be okay. The schedule opens up a bit after the tough last 10 days and Northwestern will have some chances to rack up wins against some lesser opponents. Also going 1-1 against Ohio State and Maryland is nothing to be ashamed of and is probably better than many people thought they would do. Northwestern finally has the marquee win they were lacking on its resume, and as long as it continues to win games that it should, the NCAA tournament is still a very real possibility. The Wildcats loss to Maryland on Sunday is only a small bump in the road.