That was a bit too close. Northwestern eventually prevailed 64-55 over the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, but the game was surprisingly hard-fought despite a brilliant start for the Wildcats.
After a shaky beginning in its debut, Northwestern women’s basketball refused to entertain the notion of another slow start. Northwestern (2-0) opened its game against Oral Roberts (0-2) with a 14-1 run. Nia Coffey quickly asserted herself as the best player on the floor, scoring 7 points in the first 4 minutes and showing her skills from long-range.
Meanwhile, Northwestern’s defense turned up the intensity early, rather than waiting until the second quarter as it did against Hampton. Oral Roberts shot just 27 percent from the field in the first half, leaving Northwestern in control of the game by default heading into the second half.
Oral Roberts resorted to fouling Ashley Deary in order to stop the Wildcats, and she hit 9 of 10 free throws in the first half to secure a 36-27 Northwestern lead at the interval. Foul trouble for Oceana Hamilton proved irrelevant, as head coach Joe McKeown was able to rely on his bench to pull through for the rest of the half.
However, Oral Roberts continued to hang around in the third and fourth quarters. But Northwestern hung onto its advantage, as Oral Roberts was never able to consolidate a push for the game. The Golden Eagles pulled to within two points early in the fourth, but Northwestern quickly restored its advantage to win by 9 in the end thanks to a pair of threes from Coffey and Lydia Rohde that ultimately put Oral Roberts to bed.
Northwestern’s offense was not as efficient as it was during the second half on Friday against Hampton. The team did improve its three-point accuracy from 27.8 percent in the opener to a solid 40 percent against Oral Roberts. Northwestern’s ability to hit from beyond the arc proved critical in securing Northwestern the win. Lydia Rohde made all of her three-point attempts and looks like a solid component of the team after coming off the bench for much of last year. Coffey ended the game with 20 points in yet another good performance, and the expansion of her perimeter shooting will be an interesting storyline to watch.
Northwestern will face Missouri State at Welsh Ryan at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 16.
- Ashley Deary shot 0-9 from the field through the first 30 minutes of the game. Obviously, this was not ideal. Deary has never been on the floor as a scorer, as her defense and ability to control the floor have always been more important. Still, Northwestern does need Deary to score between 10-12 points per game, and although she got to the free throw line, that will be increasingly difficult against good competition.
- Despite not having a true center in 2015-16, Northwestern finished the season second in the Big Ten in blocks per game. Northwestern has continued its “block party” in its first two games of 2016-17 with an astounding 23 blocks. This time around, Lauren Douglas had 6 blocks and freshman Abbie Wolf added 2 more. If the team can sustain its ability to deter shots at the rim, it will pay dividends later on in the season.
- Northwestern’s inability to pull away in this game was concerning. The team hasn’t put together a full game in its first two contests, and will hope to improve against Missouri State.