Nia Coffey makes her final stop in her hometown Wednesday [Note: at press time this game has been postponed] as a collegiate when Northwestern plays Minnesota in women’s basketball at Williams Arena.
The 6’-1” senior forward and Hopkins grad last weekend became only the fifth Big Ten player to have 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds for a career. Minneapolis native Jenna Smith (2007-10) also achieved this feat at Illinois.
“She has great quickness,” noted Northwestern Coach Joe McKeown of Coffey to the MSR during a preseason media conference call in October. The three-time first-team All-Big Ten performer — a first for the school — has shown steady improvement each season as a Wildcat.
“One of her goals was to become a more consistent three-point shooter. She has spent a lot of time on that,” said McKeown. “She is as good a finisher as there is in the Big Ten.”
Coffey is third in scoring this season, third in blocks, and first in rebounding (overall and defensive) among conference individual leaders. She is on a school-record 65 straight games in which she scores in double figures.
Wisconsin freshman guard Suzanne Gilreath and junior guard Cayla McMorris, both Brooklyn Park natives, were in town last weekend. Gilreath’s 14 points led the Badgers and McMorris added four points in an 88-60 loss in the annual Border Battle between the two schools.
McMorris is the team’s leading scorer, and Gilreath is a key reserve who has scored in double figures in seven of the last nine games. She leads the team in three-pointers and hit four treys against Minnesota.
“It feels good to be home,” said Gilreath afterwards to the MSR on her first time playing as a collegiate at home. Her first year at Wisconsin, where she plans to major in communications, “is definitely a challenge, but I knew that coming in. It’s just adjusting to the challenges,” added the 5’-4” freshman who graduated from Fridley High School. “I came in expecting to work hard and see what happens.”
“Being at home in front of friends, having all your high school teammates there, is always fun — it’s a rivalry game,” added the six-foot McMorris, who admitted afterwards that she has been struggling of late. She did not connect in 10 attempts against the Gophers. “I know lately my shots haven’t been falling my last few games.”
Her major is communication arts, radio and TV, said the Park Center graduate. “Right now I have a 3.0 average.”
Globe-tracking the Lynx
In last week’s action, Sylvia Fowles delivered a 24-point, 14-rebound performance in a win for Beijing (China). Keisha Hampton had 12 points and two steals in a four-point loss for Bnot Hertzeliya (Israel). Natasha Howard’s double-double (18 points, 16 boards, two blocks) helped power Samsung Blue Minx (South Korea) to a big win. Both Howard and Hampton are in action this week.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.