The end of Northwestern women’s basketball’s season came earlier than most had hoped, but there remain plenty of individual and team performances to look back on from the 2021-22 season. With March officially over and this year’s college basketball action behind us, it’s time we take a look at the impacts each member of Joe McKeown’s squad made during their 17-12 run. Next, we look at Northwestern’s queen of the paint, senior Courtney Shaw.
When the Maryland native posted four point-rebound double-doubles through the first six games of the 2021-22 season, Wildcat fans knew they were in for a treat. Having Shaw back in the paint for good was a welcome sight after her junior campaign was broken up due to injury, and she only continued to develop underneath the basket.
Despite a mid-season scoring slump, Shaw’s consistent rebounding and aggressiveness at the post kept the ‘Cats alive in matchups when shots might not have been falling from outside. The forward was the most productive player aside from Burton on McKeown’s squad, and thankfully, she’s sticking around for her fifth and final year.
The following stats are courtesy of herhoopstats.com.
Shaw’s point totals in 2021-22 reflected her junior season stats almost exactly — her points per game increased by less than one while playing five more minutes per game. Nonetheless, Shaw’s 8.1 per contest put her behind Burton as the second-highest scoring player on Northwestern’s roster.
Where Shaw saw the biggest change, and where she was able to make the biggest impact on the court last season, was in her rebounding numbers. The senior’s total rebounds per game increased from 6.4 to an even 10.0 — good for third in the conference behind Maryland’s Angel Reese and Illinois’ Kendall Bostic. Notably, her 4.6 offensive rebounds per contest put her at third in the nation, whereas she averaged only 2.9 the year prior.
Here are Shaw’s advanced metrics, also through Her Hoop Stats.
The forward’s shot distribution looks like what you would expect from a big — 81.4 percent of her shots coming from two and 18.6 coming from the charity stripe. Shaw also boasts the highest effective field-goal percentage on the team at 51.3 percent, but it’s worth clarifying that it’s the exact same as her normal field-goal percentage because she didn’t take any threes outside of a half-court heave against Pittsburgh.
Shaw is still the Wildcats’ highest percentage shooter, point-blank. Therefore, fans should expect her usage rate of just 14.7 percent from last season to go up next year, especially without Burton as a weapon outside of the paint to make up for many of the other points scored and plays made.
Coach McKeown often states in his postgame press conferences that Shaw is one of the most overlooked players in the conference. Frankly, he’s right. Shaw posted eight double-doubles on the season, the most impressive of which came in a 20 point 10 rebound route of Illinois toward the end of conference play. She also posted a career-high 14 rebounds not once, but twice last season.
In addition to her rebounding dominance and solid field-goal percentage, Shaw finished the season in the top 15th percentile nationally for both steals and blocks per game. She’s an all-around post player, and her statistics don’t even begin to describe the kind of effort she puts in on the court. From her diving save in the Big Ten Tournament to keep the play alive against Minnesota as time wound down to her playing the entire two overtime periods against No. 4 Michigan on four fouls, Shaw has shown how valuable she is to both her team and the program as a whole.
Shaw’s weaknesses boil down to these two things: free-throws and fouls. The senior shot a less than ideal 52.5 percent from the stripe, putting her in the bottom seventh percentile nationally. This is actually slightly improved from last season, where Shaw hit just half, but it’s still one of the worst free throw percentages on the team, including the reserves.
She did lead the team in one thing though, and that was personal fouls. Fortunately for Shaw, she never managed to foul-out last season, but she did come dangerously close with four fouls seven times. Five of those times came over the last eight games of the season, including the Big Ten Tournament. Yes, playing at the post inevitably involves contact, but it will be important for Shaw to play with a little more control and poise in the future.
An increased usage rate next season will mean Shaw is likely to get fouled more often. And, more fouls means more trips to the line. In order for her to really utilize her full potential in the scoring column, she will need to become a better free-throw shooter than she’s been in her career so far.
Other than that, Shaw has shown she knows how to make the necessary changes in the offseason. Over her four years as a Wildcat, she has consistently improved in every facet of the game — now heading into her fifth and final year, it’s time to tie up the loose ends.
The Bottom Line
The sky is the limit for Shaw next season. She will remain Northwestern’s domineering force at the basket, and she will be a resource to both Paige Mott and Caileigh Walsh who will assume her role upon her departure. With improved free-throw shooting and minimized fouling, there’s no reason why Shaw shouldn’t be one of the better bigs in the conference come November.