Women’s Basketball: No sign of sophomore slump for Orban

Sarah Kuta

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Coach Joe McKeown is worried about another team recruiting one of his best forwards.

But it’s not another basketball team stealing sophomore Brittany Orban that he’s concerned about – it’s coach Pat Fitzgerald.

Orban led Northwestern with 25 points and seven rebounds on Sunday in a 119-66 victory over Robert Morris University. Though it was an exhibition game, McKeown said Orban’s performance was an indicator of how she will play the rest of the season.

“Coach Fitz would love her,” he said. “She makes plays. They’re not pretty. It’s just based on hustle and aggression and determination.”

Even though the exhibition game doesn’t count toward the team’s statistics, Orban was visibly pleased with her team’s performance, grinning outside the locker room after the game.

“119 points, no matter what team you’re playing against, that’s still a lot of points,” she said.Orban demonstrated her determination through her numbers last year. She led the team in 3-point percentage (.400) and free throws made (87) as a true freshman. Orban finished fourth in the Big Ten and second on the team in free throw percentage (.821) and received the Wildcats’ Newcomer of the Year Award.

Last season against Ohio State, Orban notched a career-high 25 points and nailed all 13 of her free throws. Now as a sophomore, McKeown said he hopes the freshmen will observe and adopt Orban’s work ethic.

“She works so hard in the weight room, and she always tries to finish first in every sprint,” he said.

At an even six feet, Orban is not one of the tallest players in the Big Ten. McKeown’s recruiting class includes 6’5″ Danielle Diamant and 6’2″ Kendall Hackney. Regardless of her size, Orban’s performance Sunday showed her efforts in practice are translating onto the court.

“She’s always going to be undersized,” McKeown said. “When she’s on the floor, she expects to win. She makes people better because she plays so hard.”

The Cats’ newly-recruited height forced the Colonials outside, and they scored only eight points in the paint during the first half.

NU on the other hand, more than tripled Robert Morris’ points inside.

“It was a great challenge for us,” Orban said. “Even though they weren’t very tall, it’s still enforcing to get it inside. We’re going to want to get it inside every game.”

In the first half, NU’s size and physicality allowed it to rebound more and start more fast breaks than it typically did last year. With six minutes left in the half, Orban made a fast break layup and then followed up with another jump shot after a steal by sophomore Allison Mocchi.

But she wasn’t finished. Orban then knocked down a 3-pointer on the following possession to increase NU’s lead to 14. In one minute of play, Orban demonstrated her versatility by adding seven points in three different ways.

Her mentality: Reminding herself that she isn’t a freshman anymore.

“Going into it, the first thing I thought was ‘This isn’t my first game,'” she said. “You get nerves no matter what game you play. I had to sit back and think ‘I’ve done this for 30 some games.’ It’s just another game.”sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu