NU women’s basketball rolled over Lewis in its exhibition game on Wednesday, coming away with a dominant 89-34 win. The Wildcats took control early on and never looked back, showing confidence and poise on both sides of the ball, with every player who dressed getting in on the action (Jordan Hamilton took a day off for maintenance, and Jess Sancataldo was out with an injury). Here’s the full box score:
Whether Lewis’ general lack of Division 1 skill aided Northwestern’s success or not, the Wildcats were firing on all cylinders and look as strong as one would expect heading into they 2019-20 season. Without further ado, let’s get to the takeaways:
Northwestern is going to shoot plenty of threes this year
An emphasis for many players this offseason, including Lindsey Pulliam, was on three-point shooting, after the team as a whole shot just 31 percent from beyond the arc last year despite the individual success of players like Veronica Burton and Abi Scheid. As a result, Northwestern looks to be a team that will put up a lot more threes than midrange shots this year, though the latter remains fully in Pulliam’s arsenal.
The Wildcats ran the drive-and-dish consistently between the guards, finding plenty of open looks for Pulliam, Burton and even Scheid. However, the team’s three-point percentage can certainly be improved. In the matchup, the Wildcats were 7-20 from beyond the arc, with the three aforementioned players going just 3-14. If NU keeps finding open looks with clever cuts, drives, and passes, though, the shots should start to fall.
Things will be different without Pallas, on both sides of the ball
Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah’s absence was certainly noticed in Northwestern’s first outing, especially on the defensive end. Head coach Joe McKeown’s Blizzard-style defense, while typically quite effective overall (NU was tops in the Big Ten in scoring defense last season), leaves players open for backside threes and allows the potential for easier entry into the post.
Without Akpanah’s athletic presence inside, that post entry could become more dangerous when facing more talented opponents. While Abbie Wolf’s size is an advantage, her athleticism does not match up to what the team is used to inside, so Northwestern will have to adjust.
Lewis was able to attack this angle and get a fair amount of threes, putting up 22 on the day. While they were unable to convert on these opportunities, largely thanks to good closeouts and rotations, some teams down the road will have more success, which could end up causing trouble for the Wildcats.
On the other hand, Northwestern’s posts rotated impressively well on offense. Wolf was especially active inside and found herself a handful of good looks. Amber Jamison also had a standout performance in terms of outside shooting, as someone who did not see a lot of action last season. For a forward who can shoot, her contributions are crucial this season as short-range jumpers will draw out the defense and open things up for the guards.
Sydney Wood is a player to keep an eye on
Wood looked great on both sides of the ball all game long. The Maryland native’s progression will be an important part of the team’s success this season, as she hopefully brings more confidence into a potentially bigger role. She looked especially able with the ball in her hands and helped set the pace of the game, especially in the first half.
The true sophomore filled up the stat sheet, shooting 100 percent from the field and finishing with 15 points, four assists, six rebounds and three steals — which would have been good for her career high in points had this not been an exhibition. Overall, if her performance is foreshadowing anything, Wood, last year’s sixth man, could establish herself as a more significant part of the offense after featuring mainly on the defensive end as a true first year.
Northwestern has an impressive amount of depth
The Wildcats proved their roster was just as deep as we thought it might be, with all 12 Wildcats who saw the court finding the bottom of the net. Beyond the starters, who mainly played exceptionally well, Byrdy Galernik’s performance was commendable. As a tied-leading scorer of the night, the backup point guard shot 100 percent from three and finished with 15 points. Courtney Shaw also came alive in the second half, finishing with 11 points and four rebounds.
Both of Northwestern’s first years also added to the mix and combined for 10 points on the night. Kaylah Rainey and Laya Hartman both saw the court in the second half and contributed well. Hartman got into the action first, drawing a foul early on and finding her first point at the line. She added a two field goals later in the half.
Rainey entered the game in the fourth, and her presence was instantly felt with an impressive three-point play. She re-entered the game later and found herself another bucket. Both players rotated well on both offense and defense and showed they can be solid assets when Northwestern needs to look further down the bench.