Friday, November 25, 2016

Coffey's all-around effort pushes Northwestern past No. 16 Florida

                       Photo Credit: Northwestern Athletics

On a chilly, Friday night after Thanksgiving, Northwestern senior Nia Coffey returned with a vengeance.

The forward finished with game highs in points (26) and rebounds (14) in a 73-68 upset of No. 16 Florida (4-1) at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

At 4-1 in non-conference play, Northwestern coach Joe McKeown knows the effort came against a Florida team, who made last season's NCAA Tournament with Ronni Williams, Haley Lorenz and Eleanna Christinaki returning.

"A win against a really good team (in Florida), who had players who could guard anyone on the floor is more impressive," McKeown said. 

Coffey offered few words in the postgame press conference, but McKeown knows the senior does all of her talking on the hardwood.

"(Nia) is humble and unselfish, which is a great trait for her to have and makes things easier for everyone else," Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said.

After missing the last two contests to an upper body injury, Coffey affected the game in all phases from the opening tip.

On the defensive end, Coffey showed her size with a chase-down block on Florida's Sydney Searcy, 33 seconds into the third quarter.

With Northwestern trailing for the majority of the second half and down 62-58, 1:42 into the fourth quarter, Coffey provided a  much-needed spark. Coffey's dazzling bounce pass from the free-throw line to Abi Scheid for the layup kickstarted a 7-0 run over 5:38.

A 66.7 percent free throw shooter coming into Friday's game, Coffey inexplicably missed both attempts moments later. However, the misses would not phase her as a feed to Lauren Douglas for a layup proved to be a source of redemption as the Wildcats took a four-point lead with 1:01 left in regulation and would not look back.

In eight-plus seasons at the helm in Evanston, McKeown knows Coffey's remarkable work ethic helps makes her teammates around better.

"The one thing that separates the best players from everyone else is they make everyone on the court better and that's what (Nia) does," McKeown said. "She covers people's mistakes and has a great sense of what needs to be done, whether that is making a defensive stop or getting to the basket. She has that mentality you can't teach."

That mentality from Coffey will be a vital factor if Northwestern can put together a solid Big Ten conference run beginning on New Year's Eve.

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