Northwestern seeks growth, advances in nonconference schedule

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Annabel Edwards/Daily Senior Staffer

Lauren Douglas and the Wildcats push the ball up the court against Illinois-Chicago. Northwestern hosts Chicago State on Wednesday, looking to improve to 3-0 as the young team gains experience.

Alex Lederman, Reporter

Although the Wildcats have one win in the bag, coach Joe McKeown knows this is just the beginning of a long journey — a journey that continues Wednesday night against Chicago State.

“There’s a lot of room for growth,” he said. “We’re just getting started.”

Coming off a 79-63 victory against Illinois-Chicago, there was a lot to like. McKeown cited his team’s unselfishness as a particular standout. Nonetheless, much needs to be improved.

Two NU players — junior center Alex Cohen and sophomore forward Lauren Douglas — fouled out of the game under the NCAA’s stricter new regulations on hand checks.

“We’ve got to become a much better team without fouling,” McKeown said.

Also crucial to NU’s success is chemistry. With three freshmen in the starting lineup, the Cats must develop a strong dynamic between the old and the new.

Senior captain La’Terria Taylor understands the leadership role she must take.

“Right now, I’m just trying to be vocal, making sure I’m heard and giving any support, whether it’s on the court or off the court,” she said.

Injuries have plagued Taylor’s career to this point, sidelining her for the entirety of her freshman and sophomore seasons and limiting her to the final seven games last year, but she is excited to finally start a season ready to play.

“It feels great,” Taylor said. “Obviously I’ve been through a lot of injuries and a lot of time with rehab and mental toughness, so definitely coming back this year has proven that I can just about do anything, and I’m just glad to be back on the floor with my teammates. It just feels good to play again.”

The freshman class has particularly impressed Taylor.

“We’ve taken them under our wing in a sense, but they’re very mature freshmen,” she said. “They’ve done a really good job so far. We haven’t had to really babysit or anything like that.”

The three freshmen starters proved their worth in the season opener, combining for 42 points and each putting up double digits individually. Forward Nia Coffey was honored as the Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week after her 19-point performance.

Fellow freshman Christen Inman stood out as well, scoring 12 points and going 10 for 10 from the free throw line.

“It obviously feels really good to start,” she said. “But I’m just thankful to get on the court and help my team win.”

Inman learned from her debut that she’s playing a much different game than she’s used to.

“It’s not like in high school where I could maybe take a play off and still be okay,” she said. “The game is just so much faster, and it’s so much more physical that I have to play every single second that I’m on the court.”

McKeown, however, knows that Inman and her fellow freshmen are in good hands.

“I think the dynamic between the veterans and young players has been great,” he said. “Our captains have done a really good job looking out for upcoming freshmen. We have really great leadership on this team.”

Regardless, the Cats know they have a long way to go and a lot to learn.

“I think we can grow in every aspect of the game,” Inman said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

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