Northwestern’s starting to make a habit of recovering from slow starts. After an inconclusive first half saw the Wildcats down by three, Northwestern (10-1) took advantage of Santa Clara’s (4-4) foul trouble, made 29-of-38 free throws and won 87-75 against a solid team on the road.
The three senior captains all had good days, and led Northwestern’s second half fightback. Christen Inman scored a season-high 22 points. Coffey didn’t have a very efficient shooting night, but she went for 23 points and 16 boards. Deary had 18 points and 8 assists with just two turnovers.
Northwestern got off to a slow start offensively, shooting just 29.4 percent from the field in the first quarter. Coffey missed five of her first six shot attempts while the Broncos sallied forward to take a 19-15 lead by the end of the first. Northwestern’s defense gave up two key three-pointers and looked a bit out of sorts on offense.
The second quarter started much more smoothly for the Wildcats as they forced two turnovers and took a 21-19 lead on back-to-back made three-pointers from Deary and Coffey. However, Santa Clara proved its mettle as Emily Wolph responded with a three-pointer. Santa Clara was able to re-establish its 4-point advantage midway through the quarter on a transition layup from Marie Bertholdt.
Northwestern fell victim to excellent offensive execution from the Broncos as Coffey’s early shooting issues continued. She shot just 3-of-12 in the first half, but fellow captains Ashley Deary and Christen Inman stepped up to deliver 17 combined points and keep Northwestern in the game. Coffey finally hit another shot with 1:44 remaining in the quarter, a layup that tied the game at 36-36. But the Broncos restored their advantage with a Lori Parkinson three, giving Santa Clara a 39-36 halftime advantage.
It was the Santa Clara’s offense that struggled to start the third as Northwestern went on a 4-0 mini-run to take a 40-39 lead. The Broncos were able to fight back yet again, and retook the lead on yet another three from Wolph. However, with five fouls conceded in the first three minutes in the quarter, the Broncos were faced with serious foul trouble. Two of its starters hit the bench with four fouls, but Santa Clara still managed to take a 48-44 lead halfway through the third.
Northwestern recaptured the lead briefly when Inman hit the team’s fourth three in six attempts, but Wolph answered with a three of her own. But the fouls continued to pile up for Santa Clara, and Northwestern was able to take a one-point lead on a pair of Rohde free throws. Coffey extended her team’s advantage with three made free throws and Northwestern closed out the third up 58-54.
Northwestern started the fourth on a devastating 8-0 run and went up 66-54 on a long jumper from Lauren Douglas. Santa Clara was able to cut the lead back down to 8, but the Broncos never got closer than that as Northwestern established an insurmountable advantage. The win was sealed by another flurry of Northwestern free throw attempts from Deary and the Wildcats emerged with a somewhat routine 87-75 win.
Northwestern next travels to Gonzaga for another tough road test on December 19th.