As we continue to look back on Northwestern’s disappointing 2022-2023 season, today we spotlight the floor general for the Wildcats — fifth-year guard Sydney Wood.
Wood returned to Northwestern for one final season after missing most of the prior year with an injury. With Veronica Burton now in the WNBA, Wood slid into the Dallas Wings star's role, expanding her responsibilities on the court from the shooting guard position. Wood made massive strides on the floor, as is evident by her stats.
Wood’s stats, as well as the percentile they ranked in, provided by CBB Analytics:
Wood was leaps ahead of where she finished a year ago, ending her final season averaging 10.4 PPG, which was second-best on the squad and in the 76th percentile nationally. She tied her career high with 19 points against the Fighting Illini. She was a solid shooter, knocking down 41.6% of attempted field goals, placing her in the 77th percentile for all of college basketball. The fifth-year averaged 2.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game, which were both nearly in the 90th percentile in their respective categories. However, No. 3 averaged over two turnovers a game, placing her in the 30th percentile of players in the country.
On the defensive end, Wood was a thorn in the side to all of the Wildcats’ opponents. The Maryland native racked up 75 steals, and her 2.4 steals per game placed her in the 99th percentile in the entire nation. In addition to taking the ball away, the 5-foot-11 guard was not to be messed with around the rim. Wood blocked 38 shots this season, positioning the super senior in the 99th percentile of players. On the other hand, Wood’s aggressive play had its drawbacks, picking up 69 fouls this season. Her 2.4 fouls a game placed her in the bottom fifth of the nation, coming in at the 18th percentile.
Here is Wood’s shot chart, courtesy of CBB Analytics:
It was not always pretty for Wood, who struggled shooting but was fantastic at getting to the rim for an easy bucket. Do not let her find her way to the right corner, because like the game double-dribble, that is a cheat code. She knocked down 40% of three-point attempts in the right corner but made less than 30% of triples from other spots on the floor. While no Wildcat shot particularly well from three this year, Wood’s 31% three-point percentage was good enough to get on the podium — finishing in the top three for the ‘Cats. In the mid-range, Wood struggled to find the bottom of the net, making just a quarter of her attempts outside the paint. Her shooting percentage was aided by draining over half of her shots around the rim.
Wood was not only good, but great on the defensive end of the floor. In fact, she was such an impressive defender that she was named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team for the second time in her career. Her 75 steals were the second most in the Big Ten this season, constantly flustering her opponents. Add on her 38 blocks, sneaking her into the top five in the Big Ten, and No. 3 was a force to be reckoned with for the Wildcats. In her final game in the purple and white, Wood went out with a strong performance — rejecting five shots against Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament. With former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Veronica Burton leaving for the WNBA, Wood stepped up to fill the top-ten pick’s massive shoes.
While Wood was great at taking the ball away, she struggled to protect it herself. She had 63 turnovers this year, including multiple games of four or more turnovers. There were only two games in the entire season where the fifth-year did not cost her team a possession. Furthermore, as the Wildcats struggled to score points, these empty possessions came to hurt Northwestern late in games, as the ‘Cats were never able to sustain offensive success this season.
The Bottom Line
As Wood’s Northwestern career comes to a close, she will be remembered as a tremendous defensive player who was able to score when needed. Wood was a perfect complement in the backcourt to Burton and developed into a phenomenal leader over her five seasons. Wood was an integral part of Joe McKeown’s program for half a decade, and Northwestern will need someone to step up to fill her spot.