Northwestern women’s basketball is rolling.
The No. 25 Wildcats picked up their eighth win in a row on Thursday night, going wire-to-wire against 20th-ranked Rutgers in an 80-60 blowout at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Five players scored in double figures for Northwestern, who simply overpowered the Scarlet Knights in a statement victory for the program.
The ‘Cats won by 20. It was not close.
“I loved how we closed the game,” head coach Joe McKeown said. “Tonight it felt like we found another gear and just kept making plays. It was great game and a great win for our team.”
At first, the matchup with Rutgers was an exercise in frustration for Northwestern. Though they never really had an issue breaking the Knights full-court press, the ‘Cats struggled to finish at the rim in the early going.
It hardly mattered though, because Maggie Lyon was absolutely dialed in from beyond the arc. The ‘Cats junior sharpshooter lit up the Knights with an impressive offensive performance, scoring 17 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, while also dishing out six assists.
The ‘Cats passing kept them in the game throughout the first half, as they were able to get easy looks at the basket and pick apart Rutgers defense.
But in the second half, the game turned into a track meet.
Northwestern began to take advantage of Rutgers on the fast break, creating turnovers that lead to easy scoring opportunities on the other end of the floor. The ‘Cats outscored Rutgers 18-8 in this crucial department.
Sophomore Ashley Deary led the charge for Northwestern in the second half. She made life miserable for Rutgers on defense, hounding the Knights relentlessly and creating easy buckets for her teammates.
Deary’s been known throughout the season for her passing ability and defense, but she showed on Thursday that she’s fully capable of carrying the load for Northwestern on offense. Deary led all NU scorers with 19 points in the victory.
“[Scoring] lanes kind of opened up for me and for everyone else. That’s how we executed and scored,” Deary said. “Our key focus was to not let them come back and when we have them down to keep them down.”
If the game was a prizefight, it would’ve been stopped with 10 minutes left in the second half. At that point, the ‘Cats were scoring almost at will as Rutgers struggled to get back on defense and allowed the ‘Cats to get to the rim uncontested.
Northwestern has built up several large leads this season, only to see them falter down the stretch. That certainly wasn’t the case on Thursday, as Northwestern never trailed in the victory.
“There’s a lot of excitement about Northwestern basketball. That’s great for our players, they feel that,” McKeown said. “We just want to go one at a time.”