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Northwestern women lose heartbreaker to Rutgers, 61-59

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Northwestern squandered another fourth quarter lead and lost in agonizing fashion to Rutgers.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

These are the times that try Northwestern fans' souls.

With 11 seconds remaining in a tie game against Rutgers, Northwestern had the ball and presumably the last shot. Overtime appeared to be the worst thing that could have happened. Then, Nia Coffey had her shot blocked, Kahleah Copper of Rutgers picked up the loose ball and threw a full court outlet pass to Tyler Scaife, who hit a layup with 1.9 seconds remaining. Northwestern's half-court prayer wasn't answered and the Wildcats lost 61-59 in devastating fashion, dropping to a disastrous 3-10 in Big Ten play.

The game started off slowly for both offenses. Northwestern led 11-10 after a low-scoring first quarter. Neither team shot well from the field, but Maggie Lyon hit a three at the end of the quarter to give Northwestern the lead.

In the second quarter, Northwestern pulled out to a six point lead but Rutgers stormed back to take the lead into the halftime break. Rutgers went on a 7-0 run to start the third quarter, but Coffey helped Northwestern fight back and tie the game at 44-44 at the end of the third quarter.

Initially, Northwestern played one of its better fourth quarters of the season. Northwestern held Rutgers scoreless for six minutes as the Wildcats built up a five point lead. In hindsight, Northwestern probably wasted some opportunities to put away Rutgers, and the Wildcats only mustered seven points during this stretch themselves. But with Rutgers struggling on offense, the game appeared to be in hand for Northwestern.

Then, everything fell apart. Khaleah Copper hit a layup with 1:44 remaining and Coffey missed a shot coming out of the ensuing Northwestern timeout. With the lead down to three points, Scaife hit a three and tied the game at 56, only for Lyon to immediately respond with a clutch three at the other end. Rutgers missed a three to tie the game, but the rebound fell directly to Briyona Canty, who hit an open three to tie the game at 59 with 11 seconds remaining.

With 11 seconds remaining, Northwestern still had a chance to win the game or go to overtime. But Coffey's shot was blocked, Rutgers raced down the court, Northwestern's transition defense faltered and the Wildcats lost the game. Northwestern will have a few days to shake this one off, but things will certainly not get any easier for the Wildcats as they host No. 5 Maryland on Valentine's Day.

Notes:

  • Another game, another dramatic fourth quarter defeat for Northwestern. Watching these games is absolutely agonizing. This is Northwestern's sixth defeat in which it had a fourth quarter lead at some point. Northwestern has not played as badly as its 3-10 record suggests, but the fourth quarter execution has been lacking all season.
  • That being said, Rutgers got pretty lucky there at the end. If the missed three pointer had not gone directly into Canty's hands, the game would have been over. If Northwestern had scored a couple more points during Rutgers' scoring drought, the game would have been over. If Nia Coffey's shot had not been blocked directly into the hands of a Rutgers player, the game would have gone to overtime. Instead, Northwestern somehow managed to lose.
  • Both teams were evenly matched in offensive ineptitude. Northwestern's defense forced Rutgers into a ton of midrange jumpers, but Northwestern's offense was again inefficient against the Scarlet Knights. Northwestern has not been able to combine good offense and good defense for most of the season, and the lack of offense cost the Wildcats at the end of the game. All but three of Northwestern's points were scored by the "Big Four" of Coffey, Inman, Deary and Lyon. Although she pulled down 9 rebounds and 5 offensive boards, Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had zero points. If Northwestern had not been so effective from three (4 for 7), it probably would not have been in the game.