With just under one month to go until the Big Ten tournament, Northwestern women’s basketball sits at 13-8 overall with a 5-5 record in Big Ten play. Here are five numbers that explain how and why the Wildcats are at where they’re at. All stats are courtesy of ESPN and HerHoopStats and NCAA.com.
1. Veronica Burton’s entire stat line
Is this cheating? It may be, considering we’re only supposed to be focusing on five numbers. With that being said, I think it’s unfair to both Burton and me, the writer, to pick out just one number from the absurd season she’s having.
To begin, Burton leads the team in points per game with 17.7. She also averages a team-best six assists per game and is tied for the lead nationally with an average of just over four steals per game. On top of all of that, Burton averages 5.4 rebounds per game, good enough for second-best on the team behind Courtney Shaw.
If we dive into the advanced metrics, Burton is the only Wildcat to average above one point per play. Burton also averages 1.17 points per scoring attempt. When you put it all together, she’s not only the best player on the team, but one of the best players in the Big Ten and one of the premier players in the country. Burton has carried the load too many times this season for the ‘Cats and the numbers reflect that.
2. Northwestern’s team three-point percentage (31.1 percent)
Moving on to some negatives, the Wildcats have struggled constantly from beyond the arc this season. Many of their opponents have opted to cover the ‘Cats in a 2-3 zone and dare them to shoot the deep ball, as the numbers show Northwestern struggles to make those types of shots. As a team, NU is shooting 31.1 percent from deep, and the Wildcats have just one player who shoots above 40 percent from three in Laya Hartman (more on her later). At the end of the day, you have to make your shots, and Northwestern’s missed opportunities from deep can explain a lot of the team’s offensive struggles.
3. The average minutes per game of first-year players (23.3)
Before the year began, it was already known that first-years Caileigh Walsh, Jillian Brown and Melannie Daley would need to have a big impact for the ‘Cats to remain competitive. However, that impact became even more necessary after Sydney Wood suffered an injury earlier this season.
Wood remains out of commission, and as such, the first-years have had to step up. Brown has started in 18 of her 19 games played this year and is averaging just over 27 minutes per game. Walsh has started in 16 of her 20 games played and is posting just over 23 minutes per game. Daley, meanwhile, has started in nine of her 20 games played this year, often providing valuable minutes off the bench. There have been plenty of growing pains, sure, but the first-years have brought invaluable minutes to the ‘Cats this year.
4. Courtney Shaw’s rebounds per game (10.0)
Let’s be honest, the Wildcats are not a great at rebounding. They currently record about 37 rebounds per game as a team, good enough for No. 152 out of 356 Division I women’s basketball teams. Courtney Shaw, however, has been stellar on the glass. She’s the only ‘Cat averaging double digit rebounds and is averaging nearly five rebounds more than Burton, who sits in second on the team in rebounds per game, as mentioned previously. As such, it’s hard to imagine the ‘Cats still being in the hunt for the tourney without her strong presence on the boards.
5. Laya Hartman’s effective field goal percentage (51.9%)
Before jumping into this, let me first explain that effective field goal percentage is the shooting percentage of a player after accounting for the value of three-point attempts. Now, if you had to guess, who would you say leads the ‘Cats in this category? If you said Veronica Burton, you’d be incorrect.
You’d also technically be incorrect if you said Laya Hartman, as Anna Morris leads the team in effective field goal percentage. However, Morris has played just 38 minutes this season, hence why we’re highlighting Hartman here. Hartman is the only player who has played significant minutes this season who has an effective field goal percentage higher than Burton. The main reason for that is Hartman shoots 47.6% from deep, which slots her in the 99th percentile of division one women’s hoops players. Her shooting has been stellar off the bench this season, especially as of late, and she’ll be a key contributor as the Wildcats push for March.