Northwestern women’s basketball has had a tough season, but I still can’t help but feel optimistic. Yes, the Wildcats are 2-11 in conference and haven’t won in a month, but they truly deserve to have at least 5 wins and possibly more by now. It’s been frustrating.
On Sunday, I went to Evanston Township High School to watch Northwestern play Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ Megan Gustafson torched Northwestern for 25 points and Iowa won 70-61. It was a reasonably close game, as the score suggests, but the Wildcats only hit one three and probably should’ve made it even closer. The Wildcats still have an issue with a lack of size. This allows competent post players like Gustafson to just shred Northwestern in the paint and off the block every night. But Northwestern still out-scored Iowa by 5 in the second half.
The atmosphere in the “historic Beardsley Gym” at ETHS is not as bad as you’d think. The building is quite loud, much louder and more fun than the mausoleum of Allstate Arena. The video screen is excellent and other than the giant Illinois-colored E in the arena, it seems homey enough. The seats aren’t great, but neither was the student section at Welsh-Ryan. I will say the press areas are mediocre, but we don’t matter.
Three days later, Northwestern traveled to Penn State for to face a 14-12 Nittany Lions team with some solid players (I’m not using Lady Lions and you cannot pay me to use Lady Lions). To be completely honest, Northwestern outplayed Penn State on the road. The Wildcats were up by 13 in the third quarter and looked to be cruising to a nice win. Then the defense fell apart. Penn State outscored Northwestern 30-14 in the fourth and won by 9. Ughhhh.
Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had 21 against Penn State and has just improved so much since her first season. She is clinical around the rim now, something that wasn’t there consistently until this season. She’s a double-double machine. She’s averaging 11.0 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, which is crazy. First-year Lindsey Pulliam is averaging 14.6 points per game. Jordan Hamilton is also really good. If this team had just a little more depth and luck, I seriously think it would be in the middle of the table.
Maybe I’ll have to wait until next year for that. For now, make sure to go to Northwestern’s game against Illinois at home on February 18th. I’d be willing to put a lot of money on a Northwestern victory.