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Women’s Basketball: Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s historic day leads Northwestern past Oakland

Pallas+Kunaiyi-Akpanah+goes+up+for+a+layup.+The+junior+forward+tallied+a+career-high+27+points+and+21+rebounds+in+Northwestern%E2%80%99s+88-70+win+over+Oakland+on+Thursday.
Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah goes up for a layup. The junior forward tallied a career-high 27 points and 21 rebounds in Northwestern’s 88-70 win over Oakland on Thursday.

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah goes up for a layup. The junior forward tallied a career-high 27 points and 21 rebounds in Northwestern’s 88-70 win over Oakland on Thursday.

Keshia Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Keshia Johnson/Daily Senior Staffer

Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah goes up for a layup. The junior forward tallied a career-high 27 points and 21 rebounds in Northwestern’s 88-70 win over Oakland on Thursday.

Benjy Apelbaum, Assistant Sports Editor

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Women’s Basketball


In Northwestern’s first home game at Evanston Township High School, Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had a career day to pilot the Wildcats to a 88-70 win over Oakland.

The junior forward stuffed the stat sheet with 27 points, shattering her previous career high of 14, and 21 rebounds, the second-most in school history. It was the third 20-20 game in program history. With the departure of last season’s stars leaving a production void, Kunaiyi-Akpanah was the catalyzing force behind NU’s (2-0) second straight lopsided win, after it defeated Chicago State 63-36 in its first game.

“I’ve coached a long time … Pallas tonight, that was a special performance,” coach Joe McKeown said. “I’m glad I got to see it because I won’t see it again.”

The junior came out on fire, securing her second double-double of the season a remarkable 12 minutes into the game and out-rebounding the entire opposing team 13-9 in the first half. She nearly out-rebounded the Golden Grizzlies at the final whistle, but fell three boards short.

Kunaiyi-Akpanah was able to effectively use her size advantage and tenacity to dominate the interior, scoring effectively in the post and in transition. Her post touches were a point of focus for the offense all night, and after looking unpolished during her first two seasons, she displayed superior footwork and touch down low.

“My teammates were able to find me in the post whenever I would post up with high hands,” Kunaiyi-Akpanah said. “We were looking to get the ball to me because most of the time Oakland would switch a smaller guard on me so I had the advantage.”

Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s effort was a major part of the Cats’ 42-24 rebounding advantage and 12-3 lead in second chance points. Her breakout came on the heels of a perfect 6-of-6 shooting night against Chicago State and sets the stage for a bigger role going forward.

To start the game, NU shot 69 percent in a fast-paced first quarter to race out to a 25-12 lead that it never relinquished. The pace continued throughout the game and when the final buzzer sounded, the Cats had attempted 63 shots, compared to the 51 they hoisted in the season opener.

After the first period, however, the Golden Grizzlies clawed back into the game, eventually cutting NU’s lead to seven early in the fourth quarter. Immediately after Oakland missed a free throw with a chance to slice the deficit to six, Kunaiyi-Akpanah and freshman guard Jordan Hamilton combined to score on the Cats’ next three possessions to stretch the lead back to 13 with five minutes remaining.

“They definitely pulled up the pressure and the speed of the game,” sophomore center Abi Scheid said. “We regained the lead by slowing down the ball and looking for good looks and taking good shots.”

In the closing minutes, NU coasted to its eventual 18-point victory.

Prior to tipoff, the athletic department announced that junior guard Amber Jamison is taking a leave of absence from the University.

For an inexperienced team that has now lost another experienced player, the early season game offered NU a chance to improve and flash the potential of a possible star in the making.

Both the Wildcats and Kunaiyi-Akpanah took advantage of the opportunity.

“I told our team it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and we start the Big Ten (season) December 28 and everything in between for us is just going to be growth,” McKeown said. “We have a really young team. … I just really like the way we close out.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benjyapelbaum

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