INDIANAPOLIS – Don’t offer another cup to Lisa Bluder, the Iowa women’s basketball coach and her team has had their fill of Coffey.
Northwestern’s Nia Coffey scored 21 of her season-high 34 points in the first half Thursday to oust the Hawkeyes from the Big Ten Tournament 78-73 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, all-but ending Iowa’s hopes of an NCAA tourney berth in the process.
“We didn’t have an answer for her,’’ Bluder said. “We couldn’t stop her. I felt like she got in a real rhythm against our zone. We had a lot of trouble finding her and close in, she didn’t miss.’’
That was particularly the case in the second quarter, when Coffey collected 12 of her 14 points on lay-ups to help the Wildcats rally from three points down after one quarter to open a 41-32 lead at halftime.
“They were able to get the box overloaded on us in the second quarter and they did a good job of getting the ball in her hands,’’ said Iowa’s Megan Gustafson, whose career-high 27 point performance included 19 points which helped the Hawkeyes rally in the second half.
Iowa trailed 60-48 after Northwestern’s Abi Scheid hit a three-point basket with 1 minute, 32 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but the Hawkeyes answered with a run of nine unanswered points.
A jumper by Ally Disterhoft, who finished with 18 points to move within 19 points of matching Iowa’s career scoring record, pulled Iowa within 60-57 with 9:52 left in the game.
Coffey picked up her fourth foul 35 seconds later, but remained in the game as the eighth-seeded Hawkeyes (17-13) took their first lead of the second half on a basket by Kathleen Doyle which put Iowa on top 69-68 with 3:48 to go.
“We had a stretch where we hit a couple of threes, which got us going, and we didn’t turn it over and that got us back in it,’’ Bluder said.
The Iowa advantage was short-lived.
Christen Inman moved ninth-seeded Northwestern (20-10) back in front with a basket on the Wildcats’ next possession.
Iowa missed two shots and recorded the first of two straight turnovers on ensuing possessions before a jumper by Coffey extended Northwestern’s lead to 72-69.
Three straight misses and two more turnovers sealed the Hawkeyes’ fate, likely leaving Iowa with a second straight berth in the WNIT.
“We turned it over too many times and just didn’t give ourselves an opportunity at the end,’’ Bluder said. “They took seven more shots than we did and out-rebounded us (39-30). They were much more aggressive than they were against us two weeks ago in Iowa City and we didn’t match that. That’s the difficult thing.''
The Hawkeyes, who were hoping to reach the NCAA tourney for the ninth time in 10 seasons after having an eight-year streak snapped a year ago, will learn their postseason fate on March 13.
"We just want the chance to play again,'' Disterhoft said. "We don't want our season to end here today.''