For the first time in months, Northwestern women’s basketball put on a complete performance. Northwestern (15-13, 4-12 Big Ten) completely dominated Wisconsin (7-18, 3-13) and left Madison with a 71-53 victory. After a season filled with gut-wrenching defeats and late collapses, this win will come as a morale boost for a team that just got blown out by Penn State at home.
Northwestern took an 8-4 lead to begin the first quarter. Both teams completely avoided the three-point line and combined for just 1 three-pointer in the first quarter. Northwestern held the lead for the entire period and ended the quarter up 18-14.
The second quarter saw Ashley Deary get into foul trouble, leading to some extended playing time for Jordan Hankins. Hankins struggled badly against Penn State, but she was much more effective against Wisconsin, ending the half with 3 points and 2 assists.
Northwestern was paced by Nia Coffey and Maggie Lyon, who combined for 17 points in the first half. Meanwhile, a combination of defensive improvements from Northwestern and poor Wisconsin shooting (38.2 percent from the field) allowed the Wildcats to enter halftime with a 33-27 lead.
Northwestern then broke its trend of falling apart in the second half and instead pulled away from the Badgers. Wisconsin continued to shoot very poorly, mostly due to poor shot selection and good Northwestern defense. Meanwhile, Northwestern’s talented starting five broke down Wisconsin on the glass. Northwestern out-rebounded Wisconsin 39-30. Coffey and Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah both had double-doubles. Northwestern outscored Wisconsin 38-26 in the second half and was able to rest its starters in a blowout victory.
This performance was what we expected from this Northwestern team heading into the season. Northwestern has not been able to take of business in the Big Ten and put teams away, but the Wildcats finally sealed the deal on the road against Wisconsin. Northwestern was clearly the more talented team on the floor, as it has been for many of its games, but this time the Wildcats were able to play good defense and put the game out of reach for Wisconsin.
Northwestern’s win keeps the Wildcats out of the bottom two spots in the conference. The team will travel to Michigan for its next game on Feb 23.