Women’s Basketball: Wildcats hungry to make noise as season starts Sunday


Daily file photo by Sean Su

Ashley Deary flips up a shot attempt around a defender. The junior guard who made the All-Big Ten Defensive Team last season had 10 steals in the Wildcats’ exhibition last Sunday and will be leaned on to pace the NU defense.

Dan Waldman, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Fresh off of the team’s first NCAA women’s basketball tournament appearance since 1997, the Wildcats will look to pick up where they left off when their season begins Sunday.

Coming off of a 23-win season — the first 20-win season since 1995-1996 — Northwestern opens its campaign against Howard. NU returns three of its starters from last year’s tournament game: senior guard Maggie Lyon, junior forward and preseason All Big-Ten team honoree Nia Coffey and junior guard Ashley Deary.

The Cats seek redemption after their narrow 57-55 loss to Arkansas in the tournament, and Lyon said the team is out to prove itself.

“We just have a bitter taste from that Arkansas game,” Lyon said. “We just want to come out and prove that we can do so much more than we did last year.”

Last season, Howard (4-27, 3-13 MEAC) went 0-16 when playing on the road and opened the season on an eight-game losing streak. But the Bison added new coach Ty Grace during the offseason, who coached New Haven to a record of 44-16, over the past two seasons.

NU coach Joe McKeown said Grace brings a new dimension to Howard, but the team will be ready to play on Sunday.

“They (Howard) got a new coach that just came in this summer, so we are starting to look at some of the things she did at her previous position at her previous school,” McKeown said. “They’re going to be talented. It’s a tough way to start the season, but it is exciting to get going.”

The Cats finished their offseason with a Nov. 8 exhibition against Seton Hill, whom NU routed 103-44. Coffey led all scorers with 29 points, but Deary’s defense stole the show — recording 10 steals in only 16 minutes.

Deary said playing stingy defense is an emphasis for the team, as well as winning the rebounding battles. The Cats outrebounded Seton Hill, 59-41, but Deary still wants to see the team improve on its rebounding numbers.

“We want to dominate the boards,” Deary said. “That’s a focus for us, and having good defense and keeping a lower scoring margin.”

McKeown said the team has battled obstacles over the offseason, and the team isn’t where it was at this point last year. He said the Cats have had to deal with injuries, as well as incorporating four new players into the system.

The losses of center Alex Cohen and guard Karly Roser to graduation means McKeown is still trying to figure out a rotation. But the coach said he is looking forward to Sunday and seeing how his team rebounds from a tough tournament loss.

“I want to make sure that we are taking care of the basketball — that we are sharp with our passes,” McKeown said. “You know just making defensive stops when we have to. We’re not where we were last year at this point, but I feel like we are catching up.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @dan_waldman