INDIANAPOLIS — All good things must come to an end, and that includes Northwestern's incredible Big Ten Tournament run. The Wildcats (18-16) fell to the Maryland Terrapins (29-3, 16-2) 83-62 in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals on Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Nia Coffey had another monster effort with 31 points and 3 rebounds on 13-of-26 shooting. Her scoring on Saturday gives her 100 points for the tournament, an all-time Big Ten tournament record.
Northwestern only had one other player score in double digits however, Allie Tuttle, who had a career-high 10 points on 5-of-5 from the field. Ashley Deary had one of her worst games of the season, scoring only 2 points on 0-of-14 from the floor.
Maryland's scoring was a five-headed monster. In the frontcourt, Brionna Jones had a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and Tierney Pfirman had 17 points and 7 rebounds herself. The Terrapins also had 3 guards score in double digits. Shatori Walker-Kimbrough had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, Kristen Confroy had 14 points and 7 rebounds and Brene Moseley had 15 points and 5 assists off the bench.
The loss eliminates Northwestern from the Big Ten Tournament and essentially ends any hope of the Wildcats playing in the NCAA Tournament. Northwestern drops to 18-16 on the season, but due to the recent string of wins, it has a relatively good chance of receiving a WNIT bid.
How it Happened
The game started with a frenetic pace fitting of the Big Ten Semifinal. Maryland got a quick four points from Brionna Jones, but Northwestern kept pace thanks to the stellar play of Nia Coffey. Coffey scored the team's first 10 points of the game on 4-of-8 shooting while the rest of the team went 0 of 7. Coffey hit back-to-back three pointers to put Northwestern up 8-7 halfway through the first quarter.
It would, however, be the Wildcats' only lead of the game.
The poor team shooting would come back to bite Northwestern, as the Wildcats shot 30 percent for the quarter while Maryland shot 57 percent and 40 percent from three.
The matchup problems posed by Maryland's athletic guards also caused foul trouble for the Wildcats. Christen Inman picked up her third foul late in the quarter and had to be replaced by Jordan Hankins. Maryland went 7 of 8 from the line, while Northwestern did not even attempt a free throw. Maryland finished the quarter on an extended 17-6 run to lead 25-14 at its conclusion.
Early in the second quarter it appeared that Maryland was going to pull away. The Terrapins had a quick 6-0 run to start the quarter to extend their lead to 17. However, they would only score 6 more points in the next 7 minutes of game time.
Northwestern pulled off a 10-0 run using a lineup of Nia Coffey and four bench players. With Inman in foul trouble and Deary not playing well, head coach Joe McKeown brought out a lineup of Coffey, Hankins, Lydia Rohde, Amber Jamison and Allie Tuttle. The younger players played surprisingly well against Maryland's starters and managed to pull the Wildcats back into the game. The two teams traded buckets the rest of the way and after Coffey missed a jumper at the buzzer, Maryland went into half with the 37-30 lead.
It's unclear what head coach Brenda Freese said to her team at half, but Maryland was not messing around to start the third quarter. In the first minute of play, the Terrapins scored 5 quick points and forced two Northwestern turnovers, causing McKeown to call a timeout.
Things did not get much better after the timeout. Northwestern settled down a bit on offense, the return of Inman providing a much needed boost, but Maryland continued scoring on the other end. The specter of the game at College Park earlier in the season returned as Kristen Confroy scored 6 points on two wide open three-pointers.
The rest of the quarter saw Maryland have an answer for every Northwestern attempt at a run. Northwestern never hit back-to-back shots and the Terrapins shot 64 percent from the field to maintain a 59-46 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Everything finally boiled over in the fourth. Maryland jumped out to a 23-point lead using a 12-2 run in the first four minutes of the quarter. The Terrapins shot 75 percent from the field and a dagger three-pointer from Confroy with about 7 minutes left essentially put the game out of reach.
Nia Coffey would not go down quietly. The star forward had back-to-back and-ones midway through the fourth and was still playing with incredible effort and emotion despite being down by as much as 25. It would not be nearly enough though, as the Maryland lead never fell below 19 and the Terrapins would coast to a relatively easy victory.