This wasn't a game Northwestern was expected to win, but the Wildcats made it much closer than many expected. Despite 25 points from Maggie Lyon on Senior Day, Northwestern fell to No. 5 Maryland 79-70 on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The start of the game was an absolute disaster for the Wildcats. They didn't score for the first five minutes of the quarter and only managed to hit one shot over the full ten minutes. By the time the Wildcats had scored they had already spotted Maryland a 14-0 lead. Following a Lyon three pointer the Terrapins finished the quarter on an 11-2 run and led 25-5.
The second quarter was somewhat better, especially on defense. Northwestern managed to hold Maryland to only 11 points, but only scored 13 points themselves. Maryland went into the half leading 36-18.
Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had all 11 points for Maryland in the quarter and more points than the entire Northwestern team at half. Walker-Kimbrough scored 22 points in the half, while Northwestern only managed 18. Nia Coffey and Christen Inman were a combined 1 of 19 from the field in the first half, while Northwestern as a team shot 16 percent from the field.
The third quarter, however, provided a glimmer of hope as Northwestern put together possibly its best stretch of basketball of the season. With Maryland leading by 24, Northwestern ripped off a 15-0 run against the No. 5 team in the nation to cut the deficit to nine, forcing Maryland Head Coach Brenda Freese to call a timeout. The Terrapins responded with a quick 7-0 run of their own, but Northwestern held their own and only trailed by 10 heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter was a back and forth affair early, but roughly halfway through the Wildcats used an 8-1 run to cut the Terrapin lead to five. This was the closest Northwestern had been since Maryland had a 4-0 lead two minutes in the game. It would not be close be for long though. Maryland came out of a timeout and went on a quick 8-2 run to essentially put the game out of reach.
Northwestern now drops to 14-12 on the season and 3-11 in Big Ten play. Maryland improves to 23-3 and 12-2 in conference. Northwestern's next game is a rematch with the Penn State Nittany Lions at Welsh Ryan Arena on Wednesday.
Can Northwestern avoid playing on Wednesday in Indy?
Northwestern is currently in the bottom four of the Big Ten, which means the team will not get an auto-bye in the conference tournament. Northwestern needs some serious help to avoid that situation. In addition to Northwestern winning out, the Wildcats need Iowa to lose four of its next five games because of the tiebreaker. Michigan would have to lose all five, including a matchup with Northwestern in Ann Arbor.
In terms of seeding, Northwestern's matchup against Penn State on Wednesday could be important. Northwestern needs to win in order to leapfrog Penn State. Northwestern also plays Wisconsin, another bottom-tier Big Ten team, on Saturday. This stretch will be important for the Wildcats if they want to at least grab the 11 seed heading into the tournament.
Shutting down Kristen Confroy
In the first matchup between these two teams Kristen Confroy scored 24 points on 8 of 10 from three point range. On Sunday Northwestern managed to hold the sophomore to only 6 points and one three pointer.
"I thought we recognized her and we did a much better job then we did at Maryland," said Head Coach Joe McKeown. "We showed every clip of that film of her scoring over and over and I think it resonated with our team."
Unlike earlier in the season Northwestern managed to stick with Confroy and not lose her in the zone. Confroy only had one open three pointer all game, and it was also the only shot she hit.
Maggie Lyon and Senior Day
One bright spot from Northwestern's loss on Senior Day was Maggie Lyon, who scored 25 points and picked up 6 rebounds. Prior to the game, Lyon, Christen Johnson, Nof Kedem and Tessa Haldes were honored and received a warm reception from the crowd. Lyon received a standing ovation and was visibly emotional before playing in her final home game.
"It was really exciting, it’s pretty cool to kind of reflect on everything that’s happened in my career here," said Lyon. "The opportunities that Coach McKeown has offered for me and the athletic department, it’s a really really incredible experience. It’s just been phenomenal, I’m just really lucky."
Northwestern's all-time leader in three-pointers hit 3 threes and shot 7 of 18 from the field. She fouled out on an intentional foul with under a minute remaining and received another standing ovation from the fans at Welsh-Ryan.
"The effort you saw from Maggie Lyon tonight is what she’s given every day for four years," said McKeown. "Really lucky to coach her and the other seniors we honored today and what they’ve brought to Northwestern. They came to a program that was just getting started and they helped change it into a great program in some many ways. Really proud of them."