Women’s basketball: 3-0 start has Northwestern primed for a successful season


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

The Wildcats bench celebrates. NU is off to a 3-0 start for the second straight season.

Greg Svirnovskiy, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Basketball

With five minutes left in the second quarter of Northwestern’s season opener against Loyola Maryland, senior center Abi Scheid ran down Stephanie Karcz with a LeBron James-style chase down block, emerged with the ball and a whole lot of hoopla.

“It was a fast break,” Scheid said. “I saw her coming, tried to stop her and she went right by me. I wasn’t just about to let that happen. Just trying to block it, not touch any of her body or get a foul or anything.”

It’s still early. But with three wins in as many games so far this season, the team is starting to make some more noise. They’ll continue the non-conference slate Thursday, facing off against Valparaiso at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Their three wins so far have all been defensive shows of dominance which have seen the Wildcats (3-0) outscore their opposition by an average of 16.7 points and average eight less turnovers than opposing teams. The closest NU has come to anything other than a win was a Nov. 14 overtime matchup at Marquette, which the Cats eventually won by 8.

But still, it’s early.

Coach Joe Mckeown knows the feeling. The exciting anxiety that comes with realizing just how good a group of players can be. He felt it last year, when NU started the season 5-0, drubbing teams like then No. 21-ranked Duke and Florida.

It’s different now. Gone is Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, a superstar whose 404 rebounds last season accounted for almost 30 percent of the entire team’s rebounding total. She finished second on last year’s team in points per game and recorded a whopping 55 blocks.

The Cats are now looking to junior guard Lindsey Pulliam and senior center Abbie Wolf for increased offensive production.

Pulliam has started the season averaging 23 points per game, her shots finding the basket at roughly a 40 percent clip.Wolf is shooting at 62 percent, and has not missed a free throw all year. Still, NU is yet to eclipse 70 points in any game this season. But they’ve missed “good shots by good shooters,” something Mckeown said will clean itself up.

“Every time Pulliam shoots I’m thinking it’s gonna go in,” Mckeown said. “When it doesn’t go in, I’m looking at my coaches like ‘what happened? Did she get fouled, how’d she miss?’ When Veronica Burton shoots the ball, especially when she gets in transition, I think every shot she takes is going in too. I’ve seen Jordan Hamilton score 25 points in a Big Ten game.”

Mckeown said this year’s group is deeper. But it’s going to take some time for them to gel together, to develop and identity. That’s what the non-conference schedule is all about.

“A little too early,” Mckeown said. “Just getting people back and used to playing. I think Pallas was such a huge part of this program. To take her out of the line up, it’s hard to replace her. I’m just gonna take the whole 11 game non-conference schedule and really just use it as a gauge.”

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