NUmbers Guy: Northwestern Women’s Basketball off to another good start
While Northwestern football prepares for the Outback Bowl and the Tennessee Volunteers, Northwestern women’s basketball has begun the 2015-16 extremely well. The Wildcats are off to a 10-0 start for the second time in as many years under head coach Joe McKeown. So let’s take a look at some of the NUmbers behind the team’s hot start to the year.
One of the main reasons the Wildcats have gotten off to another undefeated start? Turnovers which Northwestern women’s basketball forces a lot of. The Wildcats force an average of 21.7 turnovers per game, which is good for No. 23 in the nation. But it’s their turnover margin, +9.8, that’s No. 3 in the country and has helped this team dominate opponents. Not only are the Wildcats forcing turnovers with their aggressive defense, they’re also committing just 11.6 per game, which is No. 5 in D1 basketball. Behind their punishing, aggressive defense, the Wildcats are forcing turnovers left and right and getting out in transition for easy buckets, helping them to their undefeated start.
Northwestern point guard Ashley Deary leads the NCAA in steals per game with 4.7, almost a full steal ahead of Lamar’s Chastadie Barrs in second place. Deary has earned the nickname “Grand Theft Ashley” with her aggressive defense, forcing 47 of the team’s 113 steals, leading to fast breaks and easy transition buckets. Deary has also improved her scoring and assist output from last year as her overall game has developed well.
With six double-doubles in 10 games, tied for No. 5 in the nation, junior forward Nia Coffey has been an absolute beast all over the court for the Wildcats. On the season, she’s averaging a double-double too with 19.2 PPG and 11.3 RPG. Coffey also leads the team in blocks with 20. With center Alex Cohen graduating last year, Northwestern needed to replace her interior presence, and so far through non-conference play Coffey has been able to do just that. NU will need Coffey to continue to put up incredible numbers as the Wildcats move into tough Big Ten Conference play.
After Cohen’s graduation, the Wildcats were expected have trouble replacing her down low which was expected to only increase Northwestern’s noted trouble on the glass. While the Wildcats are still being outrebounded in non-conference play, it’s by a margin of less than one rebound. Northwestern, led by Coffey, has been able to clean up the glass down low but it has mostly been a team effort with six players averaging more than four rebounds per game. However, things will only get tougher down low in conference play with the Wildcats going up against the likes of Maryland, Ohio State and Michigan State.
Northwestern is a team that relies heavily on the three, having attempted 196 threes with Ashley Deary leading the Wildcats shooting 40.6 percent from beyond the arc. On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats have the No. 6 three-point defense in the nation, allowing opponents to shoot just 22.3 percent from beyond the arc. Northwestern’s stifling, aggressive zone defense has gone to work against its non-conference opponents, allowing just 57.9 PPG.
Northwestern has been playing pretty well so far in non-conference play, but the Wildcats’ schedule hasn’t given them the toughest of challenges. Ranked No. 12 in the most recent AP Poll, Northwestern hasn’t played any ranked opponents yet. The combined record of Northwestern’s 10 non-conference opponents so far is just 43-49. North Carolina is Northwestern’s best opponent, but even the Tar Heels are just 7-5 on the season. And with four Big Ten teams, including Northwestern, in the latest Poll, and another three receiving votes, the Wildcats will be facing a step up in competition come conference play.