Women’s Basketball: Wildcats honor Kunaiyi-Akpanah on Senior Night during home game against No. 25 Indiana


Daily file photo by Owen Stidman

Jordan Hamilton does a dribble move. The sophomore guard will play her final home game of 2019 on Tuesday

Manasa Pagadala, Reporter

Women’s Basketball

Since its blowout win again Penn State nearly two weeks ago, Northwestern has hit a rough patch in the days leading up to the Big Ten Tournament.

Following disappointing losses against Purdue and Nebraska in the last two games, the stakes have been raised on Senior Night for a game with major implications in the Big Ten standings.

The Wildcats (15-12, 8-8 Big Ten) will face Indiana (18-10, 7-9) on Tuesday night, likely needing a win to avoid playing in the opening day of the conference tournament as a bottom-four seed.

After a crushing 71-64 loss on Thursday night against the Cornhuskers, NU is looking to bounce back against another team on the lower end of the Big Ten standings. Both teams have split their last six matchups, but NU holds the advantage in the conference standings due to its 75-69 win in the first game this year against Indiana.

Only one game separates the two teams in the standings, making Tuesday’s game a critical matchup. The Cats have one more regular season game following Tuesday night’s showcase, but it is against No. 12 Iowa and likely Big Ten Player of the Year Megan Gustafson.

Despite NU’s recent slide, however, the Cats will be celebrating senior center Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, the only graduating player on the roster. Through her four years, Kunaiyi-Akpanah has broken records and developed an impressive offensive prowess.

In her junior year, she had an average of 11.9 rebounds per game, the highest rebounding average in the history of NU women’s basketball. Along with this, she also tied the program record with 18 double-doubles last season and ranked highly in the Big Ten for rebounds, offensive rebounds, steals, blocks and scoring.

With 381 rebounds last season, she ranked first in NU history for rebounds in a single season and fourth in the all-time Big Ten.

In her final season playing for Northwestern, Kunaiyi-Akpanah has shown leadership and consistency, and she has also secured her name in Northwestern history. Last Thursday, she recorded her 1,000th career rebound, joining Nia Coffey as the only Northwestern players to accomplish this.

Additionally, for the second time this season, she was named to the Big Ten Player of the Week Honor Roll. She is currently posting an average of 11.2 rebounds per game, the third-highest average in the Big Ten.

After a season filled with injuries to starters like junior forward Abi Scheid and sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton, Kunaiyi-Akpanah brings the team a constant aggressive mentality that will be needed following last week’s loss to Nebraska, which was a devastating blow to the Cats’ NCAA Tournament at-large chances. NU lost to a team it had beaten in January 71-64.

Despite having a better conference record than Indiana, the Hoosiers are slotted to be an NCAA Tournament team, projected by ESPN to be one of the last four teams in the field. NU’s path to the NCAA Tournament likely came to an end following two consecutive losses to two teams well out of contention, but the team will have a chance to secure an automatic bid at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis next weekend.

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