Women’s Basketball: With the nonconference season young, Northwestern sorts out its frontcourt


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Junior center Oceana Hamilton takes a ball to the hoop. Hamilton figures to be one of the central cogs in Northwestern’s frontcourt this season.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

Coach Joe McKeown’s frontcourt options are seemingly endless, but a clearer rotation may be coming into view.

Though junior center Oceana Hamilton and senior forward Lauren Douglas have established themselves as the leading candidates to play significant minutes, the competition for playing time inside will continue when Northwestern (2-0) hosts Missouri State (1-1) on Wednesday.

McKeown has cautioned on multiple occasions that the season has just begun, and the rotation is far from set, but Hamilton and Douglas have made the biggest impacts and logged the heaviest minutes of five possible contributors.

Hamilton, who sat out last season after transferring from Alabama, has started both games. In her Wildcats debut Friday against Hampton, she scored six points, grabbed seven rebounds and recorded three blocks.

“She did a good job of recognizing that there was a small girl on her and just posting up and finishing around the rim and making sure she had her hand up on defense,” senior forward Nia Coffey, NU’s star in the frontcourt, said. “She was getting those rebounds.”

At 6-foot-4, Hamilton is a true center who can patrol the glass and offer an imposing presence in the paint. Though she may never match the offensive output of Coffey or NU’s star senior guards — she averaged just over 2.0 points per game in two seasons at Alabama — Hamilton still plays a valuable role.

“She does the little things. She can block a shot, get a rebound,” McKeown said. “Her size, she started to impose herself deep in the lane. We haven’t had that presence, so that’s where she’s really helped.”

Douglas, meanwhile, has made her mark on both ends of the floor. She scored 10 points in just 12 minutes Friday, then pulled down five rebounds and totaled six blocks Sunday.

After missing all of last season with an injury, Douglas said she was ready to get back on the court.

“It’s been a long year but I feel healthy, and I’m excited to get back,” she said.

Douglas, who averaged more than 10 points per game in her first three years in Evanston and was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention selection in her sophomore season, could provide both a scoring lift and a valuable inside presence.

Just as important, McKeown said, is Douglas’ experience in late game situations.

“Her ability to make plays (is huge), whether it’s a blocked shot or getting an offensive rebound at the end of the game,” McKeown said. “She’s just been in a lot of big games for us.”

No one else has yet made a significant contribution. Sophomore forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, who started 20 games last season, has played just five minutes over the first two games. Freshmen forwards Abbie Wolf and Abi Scheid have combined for 4 points and four rebounds so far, and senior center Allie Tuttle has likewise made a negligible impact.

Though all of those players are likely to play against the Bears, who were picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference, Hamilton and Douglas seem in line to again hog the bulk of the minutes.

Overall, McKeown is excited to have more, bigger options inside.

“(Big Ten teams) have been throwing a lot of bodies at us since I’ve been here,” McKeown said. “So we’ll start throwing back.”

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