Slow start ensures bad finish for Wildcats


By Michelle R. Martinelli

It got bad quickly for Northwestern on Sunday.

Ten minutes into the Wildcats’ rematch against No. 5 Maryland, senior guard Maggie Lyon was the only player with a field goal. Northwestern trailed 25-5 at the end of the first quarter, and the game felt over.

Although the Wildcats outscored Maryland in the remaining three quarters, they couldn’t climb out of an eventual 24-point hole, falling 79-70 at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Terrapin coach Brenda Frese said she kept switching the team’s defense between man-to-man and zone, especially in the first quarter, which kept Northwestern frazzled. The Wildcats (14-12, 3-11 Big Ten) shot just 16.2 percent in the first half.

“We’re streaky, that’s why we’re 14-12,” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. “We’re real streaky, we’re young, we make a lot of mistakes, and when we can’t score, I think that really was a big factor.”

Northwestern’s core four all finished with double-digit points — with 25 from Lyon and 15 from junior forward Nia Coffey, who also had 11 boards — but their efforts weren’t enough to compensate for their slow and disorganized first half.

Junior guard Christen Inman was the only other Wildcat to score in the first quarter with a pair of free throws, and she finished with 15 points while junior point guard Ashley Deary added 11.

Senior guard Maggie Lyon goes in for a layup late in the second quarter against No. 5 Maryland. The Wildcats lost 79-70 to the Terrapins on Sunday at Welsh-Ryan Arena. (Michelle R. Martinelli/MEDILL)

“You hope not to be in that situation when you start the game,” Lyon said, “but I thought we had great poise and great fight in ourselves not to give up.”

Trailing 36-18 at halftime, Northwestern proved it wasn’t going down that easily, and the team launched into a 15-0 run to come within nine midway through the third quarter.

“We kind of let up on the gas pedal,” Frese said. “I thought they really started to be aggressive attacking the ball, causing turnovers, defensively, [and] rebounding wise.”

A layup from freshman forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah closed the gap to 65-60 midway through the fourth quarter, but that’s as close as the team got to catching the Terrapins.

Maryland (23-3, 12-2) guard Shatori Walker-Kimbrough led her team with 27 points and eight rebounds, while forward Tierney Pfirman and center Brionna Jones had 15 and 14 points, respectively.

As the Big Ten schedule winds down, Northwestern is skidding on a three-game losing streak — with all matchups decided by nine or fewer points — for the second time this season. The Wildcats fell 61-59 against Rutgers on Wednesday, and they now have lost eight of their last nine.

“We’ve been through a gauntlet the last couple weeks,” McKeown said. “A lot of things haven’t gone our way, but I think what everybody saw [Sunday] was how much fight this team has and how hard we play to come back against a team of that caliber.”

The Wildcats have four games remaining in their regular season, starting with Penn State at home Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Photo at top: Junior forward Nia Coffey (10) and junior guard Christen Inman (24) go up for a rebound during the second quarter of Northwestern’s 79-70 loss to No. 5 Maryland at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday. (Michelle R. Martinelli/MEDILL)