Welcome to the thirteenth opponent profile for the 2003-2004 season. Each profile will include information about the opponent’s women’s basketball team and a player or coach on the team. Web page addresses will follow each section. Look for a profile on each opponent 1-2 days before the tip-off.
Northwestern enters the game at with an overall record of 7-7, 0-3 in conference play. The Wildcats have a better record on the road (3-2 in away games, 1-0 on neutral courts) than at Welsh-Ryan Arena (3-5), winning games against Creighton, Dayton, Drexel, West Virginia, UI-Chicago, Southern Illinois, and Hampton. The losses have come to Kentucky, DePaul, Eastern Michigan, Loyola Marymount, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State. The January 15 game will be the Wildcats’ first Big Ten road game.
Due to injuries and violations of team rules, Northwestern has had a limited roster against recent opponents; the Wildcats had only eight players on the stat sheet against Michigan, Minnesota, and OSU. To date, the squad has played five games without leading scorer Samantha McComb and three games without center Sarah Kwasinski, a prep teammate of Erin Lawless at Fenwick High School. Kwasinski did play against Ohio State and Michigan, however.
Northwestern’s 12-player roster has experience on its side, with eight players in either their junior or senior year. And ten players average more than 10 minutes per game for Northwestern, so everyone’s been seeing action regardless of class status.
The name of the game for Northwestern is defense. The Wildcats currently rank sixth in the Big Ten in Scoring Defense (60.9) in all games. The number increases in conference-only games, however, as the Wildcats allow 70.3 points per game, second-highest only to Iowa’s 80.0. Opponents are currently shooting 39.6% against Northwestern, including a dismal 27.3% from 3-point range. The Wildcats don’t necessarily pressure their opponents into turnovers (less than 14 per game), create steals on defense (less than 6.5 per game), or limit opponents’ field goal attempts (opponents have shot 127 more times this season). What they do, however, is get the other teams to miss. Chances are, unfortunately for the Wildcats, that the opponents may snag the rebound. Wildcat opponents have averaged 14 offensive rebounds per game and the Wildcats are out-rebounded by 4.5 caroms per game.
Offensively, the Wildcats aren’t the gaudiest of teams. They make 41.3% of their field goals, 32.3% of their 3-pointers (on an average of 18 attempts per game), and 67.8% of their free throws, all of which rate either eighth or lower among Big Ten teams. Their overall point per game mark of 54.1 drops against Big Ten competition: the Wildcats score an average 39.3 points per game in conference games. While Northwestern has the fifth-most assists among Big Ten teams, it also has more turnovers per game than any squad other than Iowa.
The Northwestern women’s basketball team’s official website can be found at:
Sophomore forward Ifeoma Okonkwo may be the team’s most reliable scorer, as she is second to McComb at 10.9 points per game and has played in all fourteen games. The 5-10 Texan shoots 53.2% from the field, 44.4% from 3-point range (on 9 attempts), and makes 72.7% of her free throws. Additionally, Okonkwo is the team’s leading rebounder (6.2 per game) and has more steals than any other Wildcat (18).
During her freshman year at Northwestern, Ifeoma started 18 of 27 games, including her first two collegiate games. She averaged over 18 minutes, 4.3 points, and 4.0 rebounds per game. The Klein Oak, Texas, native had her best game as a freshman against Michigan on February 3, in which she recorded career highs of ten points, three assists, four steals.
So far in Big Ten play, Ifeoma has had solid all-around games: 9 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 steals against Michigan; 4 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals against Minnesota; 10 points and 5 rebounds against Ohio State. If she continues to improve her play from year to year, and she can get offensive support from McComb and Kwasinski, Ifeoma may end up as one of the best to play at Northwestern.
Ifeoma Okonkwo’s official bio on the Northwestern website can be found at:
The Questionnaire Responses, from Northwestern sophomore forward Ifeoma Okonkwo:
1) What is the oldest memory you have of yourself with a basketball?
Age 11 playing YMCA basketball.
2) Why did you choose to play at Northwestern University?
Because it has a great academic reputation and good basketball conference.
3) Aside from playing basketball, how have you become a part of the Evanston, Illinois, community?
I attend Mass at Sheil Catholic Center.
4) What was the most difficult basketball skill for you to master?
Dribbling with my left hand.
5) Do women collegiate athletes get the attention they deserve from the national media?
6) What was the biggest challenge going from high school basketball to collegiate basketball?
The speed of the game is much faster in college.
7) What accomplishments do you believe signify that a team has achieved success?
A winning season.
8) What two words come to mind when you think of Purdue women’s basketball?
Disciplined and athletic.
The Boilermaker/Wildcat rivalry has taken on an Old Gold and Black hue recently, as Purdue has won the last 11 games in a row against Northwestern. There have been close games throughout the streak, however, including 79-67 in the 1997-98 season, 71-62 in 1998-99, 64-57 in 1999-2000, and 77-65 in 2001-2002.
The game may rest on how many players Northwestern is able to play against the Boilermakers, as Purdue now seems to have its rotation set with ten players getting the majority of time on the court. Although Northwestern has 10 players averaging more than 10 minutes per game, four of them average less than 5 points per game. Having Sarah Kwasinski patrol the middle will be a bonus for the Wildcats, and Ifeoma Okonkwo will cause problems, too. If leading scorer Samantha McComb can play in the game, the Northwestern offense will receive a huge boost.
But are the Wildcats up to playing on such a large stage? To date, the Wildcats have played in front of an average crowd of 792 people. There should be ten times than number in Mackey on Thursday, screaming loudly for the Boilermakers to pull out a victory.