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Northwestern women’s basketball player reviews: Sydney Wood

The guard became an instrumental piece of NU’s Blizzard defense as she stepped into a starting role this season.


In her sophomore season, Sydney Wood anchored one of the best defenses in the Big Ten from the perimeter. After seeing her playing time rise down the stretch in her freshman year, Wood’s defensive prowess proved too significant for Joe McKeown and co. to leave her off the court, and though it hasn’t caught up quite yet, the evolution of her offensive game over the course of the season was a nice bonus.

While she was never the dominant scorer or loudest player on the court, her presence was always felt through the intangibles. As a leader in rebounds and assists, Wood consistently used her game to help better her teammates on both ends of the floor. Her efforts earned her an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention from the media and bode well for her future as a leader as her role continues to grow.


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Throughout the season, Wood was a crucial contributor in almost every stat category. While she only averaged just over five points per game despite approaching 30 minutes per contest, she was instrumental on the defensive end. An average of 4.5 rebounds per game combined with coming second on the team in three stat categories, with 17 blocks, 55 steals, and 97 assists, speaks well of her glue player potential.

Additionally, she finished third in the Big Ten with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.3 — trailing Veronica Burton by just 0.1. Wood’s consistent minutes, even without the scoring stats to show for it, combined with her filling of the stat sheet in other regards show how crucial she was to a team that relied on its defense to generate offensive success. Even when she struggled to score, McKeown rarely removed her from the action because her hustle and presence on the court were unmatched.

Shot Distribution

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That usage rate is certainly something. Wood’s (extremely limited) offensive game was defined near-exclusively inside the arc, but especially in the paint. Over 80 percent of her points came off two-point field goals this season, with the next-most coming from the charity stripe. She rarely attempted a shot from behind the arc — six tries to be exact — and only connected on one.

However, the large majority of Wood’s points were found off strong cuts to the basket, tearing through defenders and finishing with a layup when the team needed it most. This style of scoring led to her shooting almost 50 percent from the field.

The Good

The most important and valued part of Wood’s game is her constant contributions on defense. She and Burton led one of the most effective defensive sets in the conference and the nation and terrorized opponents game after game. Her pressure on any part of the court was suffocating and resulted in some critical plays in plenty of big games, with the Maryland native specifically thriving on steals immediately after a made Northwestern basket (she must have averaged right around one of those per game).

Additionally, the 5’11 guard became an elite rebounder for her size, which was extremely useful as the team struggled in that area throughout the season. She was the team’s leader on the glass in many games and secured countless crucial offensive boards, while displaying reliability on the other end as well.

Finally, though she isn’t a phenomenal dribbler, Wood is extremely reticent to give the ball away, throwing careful and impressive (at times) passes to maximize that sparkling A/TO ratio and, along with Burton, help the Wildcats to a consistent and significant edge on the turnover front.

The Bad

While Wood was a solid contributor on many fronts, scoring has never been her strong suit. She was the only starter this season to average under 10 points per game, largely because she rarely shot the ball. On average, she attempted 4.5 field goals per game and made about two, which led to her only scoring double-digit points three times this season.

About 17 percent of her total points scored this season came from the charity stripe; however, the number should’ve been much higher. Wood only shot 57 percent from the free throw line this season, making just 27 of her 47 attempts. For a guard whose offensive game relies on slashing to the basket, it is imperative that she improves this stat moving forward.

Meanwhile, with Abi Scheid moving on, it is more important than ever that Wood at least make an effort to become a competent shooter from beyond the arc. If teams at least have to give her some respect out there, the floor will start to open up for Burton and Lindsey Pulliam.

The Bottom Line

In just two years, Wood has grown into one of the team’s leading defenders and contributors. She was forced into a much bigger role this season and handled the pressure remarkably. However, with the team losing Abbie Wolf and Scheid — two major point producers — she will have to improve her offensive game to help the team cope.

Ultimately, she has two long years ahead of her and will need to be ready to guide the younger players as she steps into an even larger leadership role as an upperclassman and as a key member of an incredibly talented and veteran group of guards.