No. 14 Northwestern (12-2, 1-1 B1G) got back to its winning ways on Sunday, easily handling Nebraska 85-62.
After falling at Penn State 79-72 in its Big Ten opener, Northwestern’s second loss in its last three games, the early-season dominance of NU was called into question. Well, those questions were answered in the drubbing of Nebraska (9-4, 0-2 B1G), as there was no doubt what this Northwestern team is capable of.
“We challenged our team after the Penn State game defensively in practice,” Coach Joe McKeown said. “I just love how they responded today. We came out ready to play, we played terrific. We were a little quicker to the ball today, pushed it hard, and we made good decisions. A lot of what we’ve been preaching as a coaching staff, we executed today.”
The Wildcats jumped out to a 17-2 lead, making seven of their first 11 shots to start the game. It was all NU from there on out, as the ‘Cats forced turnovers, got easy baskets, and spread the ball around all day.
“We just really wanted to focus on us and the things that we do well,” junior Christen Inman said. “Coming out hot and coming out fast was one of the things we said we needed to do.”
Star junior Nia Coffey recorded her Big Ten-leading ninth double-double with 25 points and 17 rebounds. It was her fourth double-double in the last five games.
“[Coffey is] that good and she’s only a junior,” McKeown said. “She’s so competitive, she hates to lose. That can take you a long way.”
Junior Christen Inman and senior Maggie Lyon scored in bunches early and often for the ‘Cats. Inman dropped 25 points (17 of which came in the first half) with a career-high five three-pointers and Lyon finished with 16 points.
As always, junior Ashley Deary filled up the stat sheet, registering 15 points, six rebounds, eight assists, and eight steals. The scrappy guard simply does it all for the Wildcats, locking down on defense and acting as the catalyst on offense.
“[Deary] was unbelievable today,” McKeown said. “I tell her once a week she’s the best point guard in the Big Ten. She really took it upon herself after the Penn State game to take a leadership role with her team.”
Coffey, Inman, Lyon and Deary totaled 81 of Northwestern’s 85 points. The quartet has powered NU all year, and they show no signs of slowing down.
The No. 14 ‘Cats may fall a little in the rankings this week after the loss at Penn State. But Northwestern is not going anywhere. In games like this, the Wildcats prove that they will be one of the better teams in the Big Ten this year. With a year of NCAA Tournament experience already under its belt, this team should be dangerous in March.
Northwestern will look to build its winning streak on Thursday, Jan. 7, when Purdue visits Welsh-Ryan Arena in its third Big Ten matchup of the year.