Women’s Basketball: Hackney’s 18-point performance leads NU to 69-60 win at Central Michigan

Kevin Trahan

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A strong combination of youth and experience helped Northwestern edge Central Michigan for a 69-60 win Friday to open the 2011-2012 season.

Junior Kendall Hackney led NU with 18 points, while freshman Morgan Jones added 12 and fellow freshman Karly Roser chipped in 10 points and eight assists.

This is the second straight year in which the Wildcats have defeated the Chippewas, this time grabbing the victory on the road. Winning on the road so early in the season gives NU confidence in its ability to handle hostile environments, according to coach Joe McKeown.

“For the first game of the year, you’re going to have some sloppiness, turnovers and miscommunication,” McKeown said. “We handled the crowd pretty well. This is a Central Michigan team that won 20 games last year.”

Hackney got off to a slow start from the field but ended the game on a hot streak, finishing with 18 points and eight rebounds – leading the Cats in both categories. In addition to establishing a strong presence inside, she also hit four-of-seven shots from behind the arc.

“Kendall made things happen, she made big plays,” McKeown said. “She struggled at times, made big defensive plays and some really big baskets for us.”

Roser was impressed with Hackney’s play, especially down the stretch.

“Kendall stepped up,” Roser said. “She kind of got off to a slow start shooting-wise, but when she got into a rhythm she couldn’t miss, basically. “

NU is looking to get more consistency out of Hackney this season, after a wild 2010-2011 campaign that featured 10 performances with 15 points or more and seven outings with six points or less.

The Cats might have the youth components this season to effectively fill in for Hackney. When Hackney got off to a slow start Friday, the freshmen stepped up, including Jones, who added seven rebounds to her double-digit point total. She started the game hot, sinking two three-pointers in the first ten minutes.

“I thought she, same thing, made big plays when she had to at the right time,” McKeown said. “When playing against her, she has a presence. There are times when I thought she was close to taking over the game. I’m really proud of the way she hung in there.”

Jones echoed McKeown’s excitement, stating her happiness with the way her first collegiate game went.

“(It was) good, exciting,” she said. “It’s an awesome place to start, here at Central Michigan. It was exciting, the first of many.”

Jones was a highly-touted recruit coming out of high school – the No. 9 player in her class according to ESPN. Teammate Karly Roser, the captain of Canada’s U-17 team last year, came in with impressive credentials – and also followed with a huge debut.

Her 10 points and eight assists nearly gave her a double-double in her 33 minutes on the floor.

“It was nice to get a tough game under our belt,” Roser said. “The atmosphere was crazy, obviously for freshmen, because we have never been in that type of situation.”

After holding its own on the road, NU will host Western Kentucky on Tuesday and Illinois State on Thursday.

The Cats hope these two matches against less-than-premiere teams will lead to a three-game winning streak heading into their tussle with LSU on Nov. 22.

Regardless, NU is riding a wave of confidence.

“It’s awesome,” Roser said. “The mood on the bus is great.”

McKeown was happy with the win as well, but knows that there is still a lot to improve on.

“Any time you go on the road and win in college basketball, it’s not an easy thing to do,” he said. “We’ll take this and learn from it.”