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Women's hoops: NU beats Morgan State; Will voters start noticing the 'Cats?

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Northwestern notched an easy 87-74 win over Morgan State in a Wednesday matinee, improving the Wildcats to 8-1. Morgan State made a few runs in the first half to keep things somewhat close, but NU was in control throughout, leading by as much as 23. Among the superlatives:

The Wildcats’ total of 87 points was a season high, and they had 32 assists on 37 made field goals. Kendall Hackney scored a career high 29 points on 13-18 shooting. Morgan Jones added 20 points, with 5 rebounds and 6 assists, while Dannielle Diamant had a nice line of 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists. Tailor Jones came off the bench and was the fourth Wildcat in double figures, with a career-high 10 points, along with 6 rebounds.

Center Anna Cole, who sat out last year as a transfer from Kentucky and missed the first eight games this year, made her Wildcat debut late in the game, showing some rust, but once she gets into game shape, she should add some nice depth on the front line. Still no Brittany Orban, who is out indefinitely after injuring her knee.

So what’s it going to take for the Wildcats to start getting some more national recognition?

The ‘Cats have just three votes in the latest AP poll, all courtesy of the Daily Herald’s Patricia Babcock McGraw, who’s been the only pollster to put NU on her ballot this year.

In the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, NU has been snubbed every week. Part of the problem is that NU hasn’t played against any of the 31 teams whose coaches vote in the poll. The only voting coach with good familiarity of the Wildcats is Michigan State’s Suzy Merchant. NU on Sunday will play at UNLV, whose head coach Kathy Olivier is a voter.

Maybe voters in both polls will start paying attention to the ‘Cats with the NCAA’s release this week of the first RPI rankings, where NU comes in 14th, according to the NU game notes for the Morgan State match. Not only is the team’s record impressive, but its strength of schedule is good, too, with NU going 3-1 against major conference competition so far., which calculates RPI on a daily basis, has NU’s strength of schedule at 23rd. Of course, RPI calculations in the early goings are usually skewed due to small sample sizes.

The Wildcats’ next few games, in the BTI Invitational in Las Vegas starting Sunday, should hopefully get NU some recognition, if the team takes care of business. After taking on the host Runnin’ Rebels (8-2) in their opener, the Wildcats will meet Kansas State (6-2), currently 25th in RPI, on Monday. NU then finishes the tourney up with North Dakota State(1-8) on Tuesday.