Today, Evanston will be graced with the rare Monday matinee, as the UT Arlington Lady Mavericks (5-3) come to town to close out a six game home stand for head coach Joe McKeown’s Northwestern Wildcats (7-1).
The ‘Cats, who are coming off of a 79-37 trouncing of Dartmouth, will be fresh after taking the entirety of finals week off. For their part, though, the Lady Mavs haven’t played since December 4th, when they took down Wright State 68-62.
UTA, one of the favorites in the Sun Belt and last year’s co-conference champs, will be a stiff test for NU ahead of the team’s trip to West Palm Beach this weekend. The Lady Mavs may have three losses, but two came to top-ten opponents in Oregon and Louisville (the latter by only nine points), and the other against an impressive Oklahoma State squad, all in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a part of the Paradise Jam.
Head coach Krista Gerlich, in her sixth year with the program, has also led the team to a resumé win against Kansas State. UTA, who has only reached the NCAA Tournament twice, is in the midst of one of their best stretches in program history as they ready to take on the Wildcats for the first time ever.
Senior UTSA transfer Marie Benson, who was only granted a waiver and eligibility by the NCAA at the start of the season, has led the way for the Lady Mavs. The 6’1” forward averages 18 points and six rebounds per game, leading the team in both categories, and will be a matchup nightmare for the patented Northwestern “Blizzard” defense, which is currently tops in the Big Ten and sixth in the nation with 50.8 points allowed per contest.
UTA also has plenty of height to throw at Northwestern center Abbie Wolf, who is currently second on the team with 12.9 points per game and leading the way with 6.8 boards per contest. 6’5” center Missy Dossey and 6’3” forward Emma Halverson should each see significant time matched up against Wolf on the interior.
The ‘Cats will likely continue to lean on Lindsey Pulliam offensively. The junior guard is averaging 18.3 points per game after beginning December with an impressive 25 point outing in a win over Boston College. Around her, NU has seen a lot of success largely thanks to the impressive job they’ve done taking care of the ball: their assist/turnover ratio (1.69) is second in the nation.
Here’s how you can follow along this morning/early afternoon:
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, Illinois)
Tipoff: 11:00 a.m. CT
Radio: WNUR Sports 89.3 FM (or online via the link)
WarrenNolan.com Prediction: Northwestern 64, UTA 52 (88 percent chance of NU win)