By Greg Mroz
Hoffman Estates, Ill – As Northwestern begins its postseason journey today against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, here are some things to think about coming into the game
One advantage that Northwestern has on the rest of the field is that they essentially don’t have to travel. Since their game at Wisconsin on February 22nd, the Wildcats have not had to leave the state of Illinois, and wont feasibly have to until the NCAA tournament. Rutgers meanwhile has the farthest distance to travel to get to the Sears Centre, they have already played a game in the tournament, and they were just in the area last week when they faced Northwestern. With so much that goes on in the life of a student-athlete, being able to be close to home is a big advantage, and in terms of this tournament, one that nobody else but Northwestern has.
The Last Time They Met
On February 26th, the Wildcats squashed Rutgers at home 80-60, and the game was never close. Ashley Deary lead the way with 19 points and was 8-13 from the field, while the Wildcats had five different players score in double figures. Despite the large margin of victory, it wasnt as if the Wildcats held all of Rutgers’ stars in check. Betnijah Laney had 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Kahleah Copper shot 50% from the field while dropping in 20. Despite leading by eight at halftime, Northwestern was more dominant in the 2nd half than they were in the first, shooting 62% from the field. Its hard to imagine that Rutgers will go into today’s matchup without some thoughts about getting wiped out in the 2nd half last week.
Scouting Last Night’s Game
Unlike the Wildcats, the Scarlet Knights had to play last night, and for the most part handled Indiana. A 63-52 victory for Rutgers saw three different Scarlet Knights score in double figures, with Betnijah Laney scoring 12 while grabbing 15 rebounds. Laney is going to be key to watch, she averages a double double (16.0 points/11.0 rebounds) per game. She is also only six feet tall, and her athleticism poses a problem for everyone shes around.
This is a no brainer, its Betnijah Laney against Nia Coffey. Both play much bigger than their size, and both dominate when they are on the floor. It will be fun to watch these two go at it again. Both teams outside of Laney and Coffey rely on good guard play to generate offense. Both teams have stiff defenses, with the WIldcats allowing 62.7 points per game, and Rutgers allowing only 60 points per game. Expect somewhat of a low scoring game if both defenses are up to snuff.