This afternoon, Northwestern (21-14, 9-9 B1G) will take on Arizona (23-13, 7-11 Pac-12) in the epitome of a hostile environment. NU has made it through 62 other teams already, and now just one remains. To win the WNIT, the Wildcats of Evanston will have to take down the Wildcats of Tucson, and they’ll have to do it at their place.
The hosts drew more than 10,500 fans for their semifinal win against TCU, and reportedly broke that mark by plenty already. Coach Joe McKeown and the Northwestern Wildcats can expect nearly 15,000 screaming fans this afternoon as they try for their fourth (!!!) road win of the tournament.
Arizona is a team that revolves mainly around a single player. Unfortunately for Northwestern, that player is really good. Aari McDonald was an honorable mention All-American, and she carried ‘Zona through most of the season. The sophomore guard stands just 5’7”, but she is second on the team in rebounding (averaging 6.4 per game) to go along with 24.2 points per contest.
Cate Reese, a 6’2” forward, is most likely to draw the matchup with Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah. Reese averages 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Also important for Northwestern, who have often been victimized from beyond the arc, defensively, are Dominique McBride, Tee Tee Starks, and Lucia Alonso, al of whom shoot at least 40 percent from three in relatively limited attempts.
Northwestern, meanwhile, will need to keep their offensive success going against an Arizona team that is rock-solid defensively, allowing just 52.4 points per game in the WNIT to date. Abi Scheid and Veronica Burton each got hot from three against James Madison, supplemented by impressive midrange shooting from Jordan Hamilton and Lindsey Pulliam.
NU is going to look to stay hot from the field, and if they can supplement even decent shooting with the solid defensive effort they’ve showed in this tournament, it’ll be difficult for Arizona to knock them off.
If you’re still looking for more motivation in advance of what could potentially be the first postseason title in Northwestern women’s basketball history, WNUR Sports put together this great hype video:
With the motivation taken care of, here’s how to watch:
Tipoff: 2 p.m.
Location: McKale Center (Tucson, Arizona)
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: WNUR Sports 89.3 FM (go to wnursports.com)
Streaming/Online: CBS Sports Network Online (http://www.cbssports.com/cbs-sports-network/)
Betting Line: Northwestern +7.5, O/U 118.5 (5dimes)