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Northwestern women’s basketball surges in fourth, upsets No. 16 Florida

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The return of Nia Coffey spurred the Wildcats to a huge win.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Maryland v Northwestern Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Nia Coffey is back. After missing two games due to injury, Coffey returned with 26 points against No. 16 Florida to ensure a 73-68 win for the Wildcats.

But it was freshman Abi Scheid who led Northwestern’s final comeback, scoring 7 of her 13 points in the fourth quarter to give Northwestern (4-1) the offense it needed. Meanwhile, Florida (4-1) fell apart offensively down the stretch, allowing the Wildcats to earn their biggest win of the season.

The Wildcats were dealt a blow before the game when senior captain Christen Inman was ruled out before the game with an “upper body injury”. However, Northwestern kept the game close anyway, as the team relied on scoring runs from Coffey or trips to the line whenever Florida attempted to impose its will on the game. At halftime, the game was knotted at 38-38.

Throughout the game, Northwestern dominated the free throw battle, shooting 26 free throws compared to just 10 for Florida. Northwestern shot 21 free throws in the second half alone, and only 4 of those attempts came at the end of the game. With Northwestern’s Florida was able to finally break through in the third quarter and took a 7-point lead with 13 minutes remaining.

Despite an immediate three-point play for Coffey and two more made free throws to close the quarter, everything was going according to plan for Florida early in the fourth quarter. Up 62-58 with eight minutes left, it seemed like the Gators were prepared to walk out of Evanston with a hard-fought victory. Then, the Northwestern defense locked Florida down.

Florida would fail to score for over the next five minutes while freshman Abi Scheid and transfer Oceana Hamilton combined for a 7-0 run that stunned the Gators. To the frustration of Florida, Scheid and Hamilton went to the line four times, coming away with 6 of 8 points. For Northwestern, it was the type of defensive stand that had been completely absent for the Wildcats in the second half against DePaul, and it won Northwestern the game. A clutch Lauren Douglas layup with 1:09 to go sealed the upset victory.

The Wildcats showed a considerable amount of grit without Inman against the best-ranked team it had on its non-conference schedule. The team kept the rebounding battle close and came out on top through 14 lead changes and an excellent performance from Florida’s Ronni Williams (19 points, 13 rebounds).

The team can’t expect to go to the line as much in future contests, but this game still displayed the huge potential of this Northwestern squad. Abi Scheid’s 13 points and 5 rebounds off the bench were huge in this game, and if she can develop into another offensive weapon to complement Coffey, Deary and a hopefully healthy Inman, this team should be dangerous in a weak Big Ten.

Northwestern will face Evansville at Welsh-Ryan on November 27th.