By Matt BakerThe Daily Northwestern
When Northwestern coach Beth Combs shuffled her starting lineup like a deck of cards last week, Beth Marshall found her way to the top, replacing junior Nadia Bibbs in the starting rotation for the Wildcats’ televised game against Wisconsin on Jan. 21.
“I was so honored that I could even get the opportunity to start,” Marshall said. “I work hard every day in and out of practice, and the goal for everyone is to be in the starting five, so I was very honored and excited to get out there.”
Marshall said she had problems at the start of the season adjusting from high school basketball to competing for NU (6-16, 0-9 Big Ten) in one of the NCAA’s toughest conferences.
Though her 5-foot-4 frame was considered small in high school, she seems tiny playing against towering opponents like No. 5 Ohio State’s 6-foot-5 Jessica Davenport, whom the Cats face tonight at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
As a returning starter, Bibbs sought out Marshall to help her learn how to run a collegiate offense early in the season.
“I gave her pats on the butt every now and then and told her she was doing good,” Bibbs said. “She’s adjusted pretty well, faster than most freshmen.”
Marshall’s ascension to the starting five gives the team two different offensive looks: Bibbs’ fast tempo, drive to the basket style and Marshall’s slower game with more jump shots and set pieces.
Combs said Marshall’s additional playing time has helped her find her niche as a leader on the court.
“It’s hard for a freshman to come in and lead a team with older players on it,” Combs said. “As she’s gotten more comfortable and the team’s gotten used to her running the show, it helps her confidence elevate.”
Combs said it does not matter who starts the game – it matters that the players contribute quality minutes for the team.
Bibbs said she has succeeded in coming off of the bench the past three games because it gives her more time to get the feel of her opponent.
“From the bench I get to watch a little bit and see how the flow of the game is going,” Bibbs said. “It calms me down a little bit.”
As Marshall’s playing time has increased this year, she said she has been forced to take a more active role on the team and gain respect from returning players.
“Being the quarterback on the floor, I’ve had to be vocal and go from being a follower to more of a leadership role,” Marshall said. “Our older girls have more experience and are wiser, but on the floor everyone is equal.”
Reach Matt Baker at [email protected]