It's difficult to believe that a program that has matriculated outstanding players such as Anucha Browne, Michele Savage, and Michele Ratay, and Nancy Kennelly could experience the difficulties that today's Northwestern Wildcats have: 3-29 the past two Big Ten seasons, 1-6 this year in conference; attendance has dropped to a little more than 700 per home game; and only one of the team's 14 players hails from Illinois. All of this leads to Northwestern dropping in prominence in the state behind DePaul and Big Ten archrival Illinois.
There seems to be little that the Northwestern squad excels at offensively: they're shooting 40% from the floor overall, 27% from 3-point range, and 72% from the free throw line. Opponents are outrebounding the Wildcats by almost two per game and force them into about 18 turnovers per game while committing only 13 themselves. Only 5 players have seen time in every game this year, and only four players average more than 5 points per game. Perhaps these shortcomings could be forgiven slightly for a young team, but June Olkowski's squad is comprised of six seniors, one junior, and six sophomores. Olkowski has now had four years of experience at Northwestern, replacing legendary coach Don Perreli, so she's been able to recruit players she thinks will fit into her system. How much longer, however, will she be given the opportunity?
For more information about this year's Northwestern Wildcat squad, visit the following addresses:
Northwestern's lone in-state player was the prep teammate of Purdue's incoming recruit Erin Lawless. Sarah Kwasinski, a 6'4" center from Fenwick H.S. is one of the lone bright spots for the Wildcats this year, averaging more than 13 points and 7 rebounds per game, ranking 13th and 5th among conference players in those categories. One of the best conference freshmen last year along with Minnesota's McCarville and Penn State's Strom and Wright, Kwasinski provides interior defense for the Wildcats with almost two blocks per game as well. Learn more about Kwasinski at the following sites:
http://www.womenscollegehoops.com/archive/2002/=TOP20NEW0102.htm (Impact freshmen players from 2001-2002 season)
http://nusports.ocsn.com/sports/w-baskbl/mtt/kwasinski_sarah00.html (official bio from Northwestern University sports)
Northwestern has rarely been an easy victory for the Boilermakers. This year's game won't be any different as the Northwestern defense has been the strong point for team: opponents are shooting less than 40% from the field against Northwestern and scoring less than 63 points per game. Northwestern, however, has an anemic offense: only twice have the Wildcats scored more than 70 points this year... against Morehead State and Southern Illinois.
Look for Kwasinski to do well against the Boilermakers this year, but the Purdue guards should dominate play: setting a tempo that Northwestern can't handle, getting the ball to the right players for scoring opportunities against NU's tough defense, forcing their Wildcat counterparts into turnovers for quick baskets, and hitting the open jumpers when necessary. Shereka will be playing her first game with a brace to protect her non-shooting hand, so no one knows how it will affect her game. Erika has to become a more efficient scorer to pick up any slack that may result and the bench must continue to play as aggressively as it did against Iowa. If Boilermakers plays with urgency and passion, the game should go in the left-hand column.