Women’s Basketball: Northwestern gets by Hampton 67-48 in season opener

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

Northwestern took time to find its motor, but once it did, it fired on all cylinders.

The Wildcats (1-0) struggled early and trailed an unheralded Hampton (0-1) team by 8 points after the first quarter, but recovered in the second quarter and pulled away in the second half to secure a 67-48 season-opening victory.

“Hampton came out and played really well. They shot the ball well,” coach Joe McKeown said. “I like what we did defensively.”

NU found its groove defensively in the second quarter, holding the Pirates to just four points in the period and turning an 18-10 first-quarter deficit into a 27-22 halftime lead. That was a stark contrast from the opening period, when Hampton had its way offensively and NU struggled against the Pirates’ hawkish defense.

“They just hit some open 3s,” senior forward Nia Coffey said. “We just have to make sure we extend our defense so they don’t get those open looks.”

Though three freshmen made their official debuts and several other players saw extended minutes for the first time, NU’s acclaimed seniors led the way.

Coffey led the Cats with 14 points and added 15 rebounds to record a double-double. Guard Christen Inman showcased her excellent midrange game, finding the net both in transition and the half court. She and fellow starting guard Ashley Deary combined for 21 points.

Senior forward Lauren Douglas notched 10 points off the bench after missing last season to injury.

As a team, however, the Cats’ offense was unspectacular. Though it had a handful of impressive plays, including sophomore forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s dump-off pass to Douglas for an and-1, NU struggled to score in the half court and totaled 17 turnovers.

From the 3-point line, the Cats improved marginally from last week’s exhibition. After shooting 0-for-9 from beyond the arc against Illinois-Springfield, NU connected on just five of its 18 attempts against Hampton.

Junior guard Lydia Rohde, who replaced graduated guard Maggie Lyon in the starting lineup, went 4-of-7 from deep, leaving the rest of the Cats just 1-of-11 from 3-point range.

“We started running the floor better and spreading out more on offense,” Rohde said. “My teammates made some really good passes.”

Defensively, the Cats shined. NU held Hampton to 2-of-12 shooting in the second quarter and the Pirates scored just 30 points over the final three quarters. Junior center Oceana Hamilton recorded three blocks in her first career start and NU forced 14 turnovers.

Several reserves, including freshman guard Byrdy Galernik and senior center Allie Tuttle, saw extended minutes late in the fourth quarter. Fourteen of the 15 players on the roster played.

In McKeown’s eyes, Friday’s game was a valuable experience for an inexperienced team.

“We’re still really young. We have six players that didn’t play last year that are going to have an impact,” McKeown said. “We’re going to go through some ups and downs. It’s not going to be Disney World every day.”

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