Cats start season with exhibition game (Woman’s Basketball)

avid Kalan

Northwestern will get its first indication of where it stands tonight as the Wildcats play their first exhibition of the 2005-2006 season.

NU will face the Chicago Challengers, a club team of former college players. The tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The Cats regular-season opener is Nov. 19 against Creighton.

“We’re not putting a whole lot of emphasis on a win, on a loss, on the scoring,” coach Beth Combs said. “We need to really be able to work out some combinations and get better at what we do. This will be a really good way to gauge where we are heading into the 19th.”

On Wednesday Combs unveiled her lineup for the game. Sophomore transfer Nadia Bibbs will start at point guard, with sophomore Sarah Stutz her partner in the back court. The front court will feature junior A.J. Glasauer at small forward, senior Ifeoma Okonkwo at power forward and sophomore Melissa Miller at center.

While none of the freshmen will be starting, the younger players will still see the floor.

“Some of them will get more of a look than others,” Combs said. “Our freshmen have a lot of talent, but we’re trying to get them to a point to get them ready for the 19th. All of our players need to contribute this year, that’s for sure.”

NU dominated its only exhibition contest last season, defeating BK Propad of Slovakia 102-80.

The win was not the omen the team was hoping for as the Cats finished the regular season 5-25.

“Our score last year was high, but they also scored a lot, too,” Okonkwo said. “We didn’t play that great defensively, and that showed throughout the season. I think if we really just focus on the defense and then try to get our points, it’ll help us out a lot.”

As Combs said on Wednesday, winning is always the goal, but the players all agree the game is a good chance to test themselves against hostile competition before starting the regular season.

“I think we’re pretty well prepared for it,” Miller said. “It’s just going to be a good time to work out some little kinks and figure out where we are.”

The Challengers travel to different schools in the Chicago area for exhibition games. They have not played NU since 2001, the last in a three year stretch when the two teams played before the Cats began the regular season. NU won all three meetings, but in 2000, required a comeback late in the second half.

While the game will not count towards their record, Miller insists the Cats are taking the exhibition seriously as the team looks to avoid the pratfalls of a year ago.

“Just because it’s not in our regular season, I guess it doesn’t get looked at like that,” Miller said. “But we all definitely have an attitude like we’re opening up on Friday.”

Reach David Kalan at [email protected]