It wasn't the most riveting battle, but we'll take it.
In a dominant showing, the Northwestern women's basketball team prepared for the 2019-20 regular season by defeating the in-state Lewis Flyers in an exhibition game at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Wednesday night. They took charge quickly and handily won to give them some always-appreciated confidence ahead of their home game against Loyola University Maryland on Sunday.
The Wildcats finished Big Ten play last season around the middle of the standings, and were unable to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. However, the team then went on a strong run in the National Invitational Tournament, reaching the championship before falling short of a final win. Head coach Joe McKeown, in his 12th season as Northwestern's head coach, will look to build off of that momentum in the quest for the program's eighth NCAA Tournament appearance (and first since 2015).
He'll be doing it without two-year starter Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah, who departs after a collegiate career that saw her become the second Wildcat to achieve 1,000 career rebounds for the women's team and earn a First Team All-Big Ten nod in 2019. But several key figures remain, including last season's starters Abi Scheid, Veronica Burton, and leading scorer Lindsey Pulliam.
>The best the 'Cats could've hoped for against Lewis was a comfortable lead and to allow bench players to see decent minutes. This was definitely the outcome of the night, as they rushed out to an early lead and never looked back. Seven bench players saw minutes and scored for the team.
>Pulliam had some difficulty getting shots to fall in the first quarter, going 1-for-5 from the field. However, she found momentum in the second and settled in to finish the half strong. Her night was mostly done from there, and she finished 7-for-15 with the Wildcats cruising ahead. "She helps me coach the game," said coach McKeown with a laugh. "It's almost like she sees things other people don't see."
>Sydney Wood saw great success at the rim, making all five of her layup attempts, and went a perfect 6-for-6 in field goal attempts. She will be a key figure for the Wildcats if she continues to start, especially after the departure of Kunaiyi-Akpanah and the current absence of junior Jordan Hamilton.
>Lewis had a rough night in all aspects of the game, going 12-for-48 from the field, and making almost as few twos (7) as many threes. Their ball handling suffered, as they committed 24 total turnovers and had just one steal. Northwestern won't be facing any more Division II teams, however.
>The Wildcat bench scored over half of the team's points, helping cover for a combined 2-for-14 shooting night from Burton and Scheid. Senior Byrdy Galernik put on a show beyond the arc, hitting all 4 of her three-pointers with the 'Cats comfortably in front. "Our bench definitely came in with a lot of energy," said Wood. "It was really exciting to see Kaylah [Rainey] and Laya [Hartman] score their first baskets, and to see Lauryn [Satterwhite] back out on the court again."
Game stats and details provided by SIDEARM Sports