INDIANAPOLIS — Three down, two to go.
Northwestern (18-15, 4-14), led by a double-double from junior forward Nia Coffey, defeated 4th-seeded Indiana (20-10, 12-6) in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, 79-73.
Coffey had a monster day for the Wildcats. She had 19 points at half and finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocks. Ashley Deary had another fantastic game as will, finishing with 12 points, 11 assists and 5 rebounds, all while having to guard All-Big Ten Guard Tyra Buss.
For Indiana, Amanda Cahill led the way with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists. Buss scored in double digits as well, with 16 points, but was 4-of-18 from the field.
With the win, Northwestern advances to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, the first No. 12 seed to ever do so. The Wildcats will play the No. 1 seed Maryland at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday.
Northwestern also improves its chance at a WNIT bid, and prolongs the possibility of an automatic NCAA bid via a Big Ten Tournament title.
How it happened
Neither team pulled away early as they each traded opening salvos. Cahill hit a three to give Indiana the early 9-6 lead, but Coffey answered right back with an and-one on the other end.
Then each team took a turn going cold. Northwestern went 1-of-8 from the field while Indiana went on a quick 5-0 run. Northwestern then hit 4 of its next 5 shots to go on a 9-0 run of its own. After Indiana tied the game up at 18, breakout Northwestern star Jordan Hankins hit a three-pointer for the third straight game to give the Wildcats a 21-18 advantage heading into the second quarter.
The second quarter was not as high scoring as the opening frame. Neither team could really find a rhythm from long range as the teams combined to go 1-of-8 from deep in the quarter. There was a scary moment for Indiana about halfway through as Buss fell down hard on her right arm and was shaken up. She returned to the game shortly afterwards and played much of the rest of the game.
Heading into halftime, the closely contested affair was tied at 35 apiece. Coffey was basically Northwestern's entire offense in the half as she had 19 of NU's 35 points. Buss and Cahill provided the same spark for Indiana as they combined for 19 points as well.
The game got even more sluggish in the third quarter, and Coffey finally began to slow down. The first-team All-Big Ten forward only scored 5 points in the quarter on 2-of-7 shooting. However, once again, the Northwestern bench picked up the starters. Allie Tuttle had 4 points while Jordan Hankins added another 5 to keep the Wildcats afloat. Hankins finished with 8 points on 3-of-6 shooting.
The quarter ended on a miracle and-one from Cahill, and after review the basket counted. The referees appeared to rule that the clock stopped on the foul and the basket was part of the continuation. Cahill missed the free throw however and Northwestern headed into the fourth leading 54-51.
Northwestern took over at the start of the fourth. The Wildcats ripped off a quick 8-2 run thanks to 6 points from Christen Inman and suddenly the Wildcats led by 9.
Indiana kept trying to fight back, but Deary and Inman refused to let the Hoosiers get back in it. Inman scored 14 of her 18 points in the fourth quarter to keep the Wildcats ahead. With two minutes left, Indiana's Jenn Anderson had an and-1, but Inman answered with a jumper to keep the lead at 7.
Then the free throw game started. After Coffey missed two straight at the line, Cahill hit a three pointer to cut the lead to four with 30 seconds left. However, Deary and Inman both sunk free throws and Indiana missed a couple three-pointers to seal the Wildcat victory.