Jan. 30, 2014
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It was another close Big Ten battle Thursday night between the Wildcats and Hoosiers with Northwestern prevailing 58-52 down the stretch. With nine ties and nine lead changes, the Wildcats drained their free throws in the closing minutes to improve to 14-7 on the year, 4-4 in the Big Ten and are now winners in back-to-back Big Ten contests.
“Just a hard fought game," NU head coach Joe McKeown said. "I just loved how our team responded when Nia (Coffey) got hurt and had to go out of the game. Our players stepped up and our bench did a great job. The second half especially—Meghan (McKeown), Christen (Johnson), Devon (Brookshire), just gave us energy minutes, big plays, hustle plays, and that allowed the players to make plays at the end of the game. I’m really proud of them and it was a hard-fought game.”
Lauren Douglas led NU with 16 points off the bench while Maggie Lyon made some clutch shots late in the game to finish with 14. Ashley Deary also added 12 points and seven rebounds while Alex Cohen had a game-high 10 rebounds and four blocks.
The Wildcats also welcomed back the return of junior guard Karly Roser who played her first game of the season. The 2013 Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honoree subbed in during the first half and logged five minutes in her first appearance of the year.
“It’s unbelievable to have Karly back in the lineup," McKeown added." She had started every game for me since she walked onto campus and that’s why I recruited her. It was just great to have her out there. I think she’s healthy, she feels good, and just getting her some time now will help her really get into the nuts and bolts over the next few weeks.”
Both teams struggled offensively at the start of the game, combining for just 5-of-17 from the field but the Wildcats had the narrow 6-5 lead prior to the first media timeout. Douglas helped NU go ahead 12-9 thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers and Deary added another bucket for a six-point Wildcat cushion. With the Douglas 3-pointers, the sophomore forward extended her streak of 14-straight games with a bucket from long distance, including two in each of the last four games.
Indiana then went on a 7-0 run to re-take the lead at 16-14 and during that run NU’s leading scorer and rebounder Nia Coffey went down with an injury and did not return for the remainder of the game. Both teams traded buckets in the ensuing minutes to keep the game close with the Hoosiers leading by as many as five and NU led by as many as three before the first half ended with the 29-28 Indiana advantage.
Douglas led NU with 12 points off the bench in the first half on 4-of-7 from the field, including 2-for-2 from long distance. She also added three rebounds and two blocks. Christen Inman added eight points, also on 4-of-7 from the field. Both teams shot less than 33 percent for the frame with the Wildcats at 31.4 percent while IU was 32.4 percent. IU’s Leikem led all scorers with 13 points off the bench in the first half.
The second half started much like the first with both teams staying within a few points of one another. NU encountered some foul trouble with 11 minutes remaining as Douglas, who was leading NU with 14 points, picked up her fourth foul. With NU trailing 39-36 at the 11:05 mark, Cohen scored four-straight points to tie things up at 39-39 and then put NU ahead 41-39 for the eighth tie and seventh lead change.
With Douglas in foul trouble sophomores Christen Johnson and Devon Brookshire each logged quality minutes in the second half. With 6:25 to play, Deary helped give NU the 47-42 lead after draining a 3-pointer, but once again, Indiana came back and scored seven straight to go up 49-47.
Deary sunk two free throws to tie things up for the ninth time and then Lyon came through down the stretch with back-to-back buckets, putting NU up 53-49 with 2:02 to play. Indiana drained an open three on its next possession but Lyon added another bucket putting the score at 55-52 in favor of NU with 1:23 remaining.
Indiana had an opportunity to score with the clock stopped but Alexis Gassion missed two free throws and Simone Deloach was whistled for a travel after grabbing the offensive rebound. Deary went 1-for-2 on the other end to put NU up 56-52 with 29 seconds remaining and once again IU had the chance to stay in it but missed both of its free throws. Douglas sunk two final Northwestern free throws to ice the 58-52 Wildcat victory.
Free throws proved to be the difference with NU going 13-of-15 from the charity stripe while Indiana was just 6-of-20.
Northwestern looks to extend its Big Ten winning streak to three games when No. 12/13 Penn State visits Evanston on Sunday. Tip is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
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