Northwestern (16-15, 4-14 B1G) kept its season alive Wednesday, defeating Wisconsin (7-22, 3-15 B1G) 76-72 in OT in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.
In a tightly-contested matchup, NU and Wisconsin traded blows the whole game. While the Wildcats had squandered leads in many similar games this season, they were able to flip the script and pull away for the victory in this one.
“Just a wild basketball game, a lot of roller coasters,” head coach Joe McKeown. “I think, really, the difference was that my backcourt, Ashley [Deary] and Christen [Inman], they just played through everything. I was proud of them. They took our team through the diversity of whatever situation put them on their back and said, ‘We're going to win this game.’”
Inman paced the ‘Cats with 18 points and nine rebounds, continuing her hot scoring streak, while Deary added 16 points and eight rebounds. Nia Coffey also scored 18 points and pulled down six rebounds, grabbing her 306th rebound of the season in the third quarter, setting a new single-season program record.
Senior Maggie Lyon, who had started every game this season, was out with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day. Without their key scorer and senior leader, the ‘Cats had to dig into their bench, getting contributions from replacement starter sophomore Lydia Rohde (eight points), freshman Jordan Hankins (eight points) and freshman Amber Jamison (six points).
“We hold [the freshmen] to a high standard,” Inman said. “When they come in, we expect them to just be steady, not to do anything out of the ordinary and really just be a part of the offense, be a part of the defense and really just understand what we're trying to accomplish.”
Hopefully, March will treat the Wildcats better than February did, as they went just 2-6 last month. Up next, NU will face Minnesota Thursday at 1:30 p.m. for a chance to go to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
The ‘Cats have lost to Minnesota twice this season, falling 95-92 on Jan. 20 and 112-106 in 2OT on Feb. 7, when Minnesota guard Rachel Banham tied a NCAA record, scoring 60 points.
“We had two incredible games with Minnesota, really, like BTN classics...I think tomorrow will be the same,” McKeown said. “Obviously, there are some things that we have to do better than we did the last time we played them, but I'm really excited about the opportunity to keep playing.”