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Three takeaways from Northwestern’s dominant season opener against Eastern Illinois

NU women’s basketball picked up right where it left off: winning.

Northwestern women’s basketball walked away victorious last night against its first opponent, Eastern Illinois. The Wildcats not only won by 43 points, but they were just shy of hitting 100 points themselves. This is only the first of what should be many wins for this team. Here are three reasons as to why they saw such success in game one.

The Blizzard defense hasn’t lost any steam

Northwestern’s defense was lights-out once again, especially in the second and third quarters, holding EIU to just 57 points total and 18 points in those two frames. After a dominant defensive campaign last year, NU looked to play to its strengths on that end of the court again this season and certainly started on a strong note.

“We picked up where we were last year, because of our defense,” Joe McKeown said postgame.

The Wildcats made it nearly impossible for their opponent to do anything on offense let alone feel comfortable with a basketball in their hands, as NU forced 24 turnovers and recorded 16 steals in the matchup. Veronica Burton is known for her sneaky swipes, so it was no surprise that she totaled five steals by the end of the night. Sydney Wood came out equally strong forcing five of her own, along with three other players contributing the remaining six. Those steals led to 20 fastbreak points and 32 points off turnovers for the Wildcats, as they continued to hold the momentum throughout the game.

Every Wildcat made significant contributions on the offensive end

Racking up 93 points in game one is almost as impressive as having 10 different players contributing to that total score. Despite graduating three key rotation players, including two starters, Northwestern flexed its depth with each player contributing in their minutes.

All five starters scored 10 or more points with Burton and Lindsey Pulliam putting on a show, charting 21 and 18 points each. What was more impressive, though, was their efficiency, as the two scored almost 40 points in 23 shot attempts.

Courtney Shaw, Jordan Hamilton and Wood were all effective contributors as well, combining for 38 points.

A big factor of Northwestern’s offensive talent is the overall athleticism with players having the ability to play multiple positions, such as Wood who has earned minutes at all five spots. Along with having physically talented players, McKeown preaches the importance of unselfish play, which is an attribute the team has worked hard to embody.

NU is prepared to bring its own juice

From tip-off to the final horn, all you could hear from inside the stadium or behind a computer screen was the loud chatter from the Northwestern players cheering on one another. Despite the lack of fans, the Wildcats showed that they, like their fellow athletes on the football field, will have no problem bringing their own juice this year.

“We feed off of each other,” Pulliam said. “If one person has an energy, we get hyped up off of that.”

Especially as many of the younger or less-experienced players earned their minutes, you heard the Wildcats full of energy and excitement for freshmen Paige Mott and Jasmine McWilliams who scored their first career points in the matchup. Based on the energy and confidence they played with, it became clear that the team knows that last year’s magic is set to continue during this unprecedented season.