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Northwestern women’s basketball 2020-21 player reviews: Anna Morris

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The five-star freshman showed promise in her first year in Evanston.

Amit Malik - nusports.com

No one was sure what to expect from Anna Morris coming into this season. Following the graduations of both Abbie Wolf and Abi Scheid, there were major holes to be filled in the frontcourt. The hope was that Morris, a highly-touted 6-foot-3 forward, would be able to make an immediate impact for the ‘Cats, whether it was as a starter or off the bench.

Instead, Joe McKeown opted for a small ball lineup with just one big, leading to limited minutes for Morris early in the year. Things changed when starting forward Courtney Shaw got hurt and Morris was subsequently thrust into playing significant minutes alongside fellow freshman forward Paige Mott.

Morris did well to survive against some of the most talented bigs in the conference, taking some growing pains in stride to help the team’s success. Overall, she averaged just over 16 minutes per game in the month of February. However, her minutes did dwindle toward the end of the year with the return of Shaw and an increased role for Mott as the backup big.

Stats

The following statistics were taken from HerHoopStats.com.

Despite playing an average of 10.5 minutes per game, the New Jersey native did not have a significant impact on the stat sheet. She averaged 2.2 points per game on a mere average of 2.6 field goals per contest. Her mark of 47.5% on two-point shots is respectable, but given the small sample size, it’s hard to make any definitive conclusions from that figure.

Morris did have an impressive two game-stretch at the end of January when she scored eight points against Iowa and nine against Ohio State. However, these were certainly outlier performances in her freshman campaign, as she only eclipsed the two-point mark in three other games during the 2021 season.

One statistic that stands out is Morris’ 0.7 blocks per game, which is particularly impressive given her lack of consistent playing time. Morris was not a lockdown defender, but her propensity to deter shots at the rim is good indicator for the future.

Shot Distribution

The following statistics were taken from HerHoopStats.com.

An important figure to note is Morris’ 14.3% usage rate. It’s natural for a big who didn’t serve as a post-up threat to not touch the ball very often, but as indicated above, her mark was particularly low. Morris also struggled to draw fouls, as just 4.7% of her total scoring output was compiled from points at the charity stripe.

The Good

Morris’ energy whenever she was on the floor was a welcome presence to the team. She hustled, ran the floor well and displayed a good sense of basketball IQ on both ends of the floor. Even if she did not score a lot of points, Morris had a great understanding of how the offense ran and was always moving on that end. Morris did have her fair share of struggles against more experienced opponents, but all in all she did a good job of being active enough on defense to hold her own.

The Bad

While Morris did a lot of fundamental things well, she did not do enough to make a significant impact on the stat sheet in most games she played in. Coach Joe McKeown praised her ability to stretch the floor in the preseason, but Morris made just one of 13 three point attempts on the season. Her shooting struggles coupled with her lack of a post game meant that she did not pose an offensive threat, reflected by her average of 2.2 points per game, and this allowed defenses to focus even more attention on scorers like Lindsey Pulliam and Veronica Burton whenever Morris was on the floor

On the defensive end, Morris struggled with fouls. On average, she committed a foul every five minutes of play, often hacking opposing bigs to compensate for her being overwhelmed in the post. In the Big Ten Tournament game against Michigan, Morris got called for three fouls within one minute of play when matched up with Naz Hillmon.

The Bottom Line

Expectations were high for Morris going into this season, and given the opportunity to make an immediate impact, she fell short of those lofty expectations. She had a few solid performances in the middle of the season, but it was troubling to see her minutes dwindle at the end of the year, as she did not see the floor at all in NCAA Tournament games against UCF and Louisville.

However, there still remains a clear need for a more dynamic and dominant frontcourt in order for Northwestern to return to the level of success they had in the 2019-20 season. Even with Shaw returning, Morris will have her fair share of opportunities to carve out a significant role for herself as a sophomore. If she can improve her jump shooting and improve as a defender, there’s good reason to believe that Morris can eventually develop into a key starter for the ‘Cats.