By: Emily Ehman

Northwestern women’s basketball kicks off their regular season today at Welsh-Ryan Arena when they take on the Hampton University Lady Pirates at 3:30. The ‘Cats are 2-0 against the Pirates, with their last meeting coming on Nov. 16, 2014 in Evanston.

The Wildcats look confident after their 84-56 exhibition win against the Illinois-Springfield Prairie Stars last Sunday, and are led by senior captains Nia Coffey, Ashley Deary, and Christen Inman.

Coffey, A pre-season All-American, unsurprisingly led the ‘Cats in the game with a double-double of 21 points and 15 rebounds. The Wildcats’ dominant defense also forced 18 Illinois-Springfield turnovers, thanks in large part t0 15 steals.

Northwestern will be looking for its third consecutive 10-0 start. Thought last year had ups and downs, after the defeat of Wisconsin, No.5 seed Minnesota, and No.4 seed Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament last Spring, the ‘Cats have very high hopes for this season, and will look to return to the NCAA Tournament.

Last season, Coffey lead the team by averaging 20.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. Deary averaged 12.4 points per game while shooting around 33% from behind the arc. Inman scored 14.5 PPG, thanks in large part to her smooth mid-range game. 

With four starters from the 2015-16 season mixed in with an impressive group of new comers, seventh-year head coach Joe McKeown and the Wildcats expect to get the regular season off strong against the Lady Pirates

Last season, the Pirates were ranked first in MEAC standings finishing with a 14-17 record overall, and an 11-5 record in MEAC play. Malia Tate DeFreitas leads Hampton, and starts her senior season with 1,939 points, just 21 away from the hallowed 2,000 mark. Hampton coach David Six will also look to Junior Kaylah Lupoe who averaged 10.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in the 2015-16 season.

The season opener, and every Northwestern home game this year, will be broadcast on 89.3 FM in the Evanston-Chicago area, and around the world on wnursports.com. Austin Miller and Will Greer will have the call, with the game serving as the kick-off to Sportsathon 2016. 

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