Film Breakdown: Northwestern’s offense without the Abi/Abbies
By Kikue Higuchi
The biggest challenge facing Northwestern in the upcoming season is how to cope with the loss of the Abi/Abbies. Scheid and Wolf both averaged just over 11 points per game last season and were the third and fourth top scorers on the team respectively. Wolf’s presence in the paint and Scheid’s outside the arc were formidable, and it’s hard to predict how the ‘Cats will adapt.
To try and understand how the Northwestern offense might adjust to these losses, I looked at the very few plays where the ‘Cats operate without them. There weren’t many plays last season where just one of them was on the court and even fewer without both. In fact, Scheid led the team in total minutes with 1,036. The pickings were slim, but these clips illustrate how Northwestern’s offense will change this season and how formidable it may prove to be.
Downtown Jordan Hamilton
Although Scheid is on the court, this one is all Veronica Burton and Jordan Hamilton. Burton does a great job attacking the zone and forcing the defense to crash, leaving Hamilton wide open for a three. The ‘Cats will be attacking the paint to pump some life into their offense, especially when they have Burton’s signature lay-up and Pulliam’s jump shot. However, when the defense crashes, Northwestern will also need to make those threes almost every time, something Scheid was great at. Burton and Pulliam are also top notch three-point shooters, but they can’t do everything on the court. Luckily, Hamilton is pretty reliable behind the arc. This shot tied the game at 56 before the ‘Cats went on to win 60-56. Driving and forcing that second defender to drop, as Burton does here, is going to give the Wildcats a better look beyond the arc and make up for the loss of Scheid.
Pull-up Pulliam from Deep
Just replace Wolf with Courtney Shaw and you’ve got this season’s starting line up. Shaw’s height and the threat of a drive by Burton should force teams to run a zone defense like this one often. Movement on and off the ball is going to be Northwestern’s calling card when you have shooters like Burton, Hamilton and Pulliam; reliable in the paint and beyond the arc. Hamilton sees Pulliam make her move and rotates out of the way to isolate Pulliam and give her a beautiful open three. The ‘Cats will be running plays like this all day long.
Hamilton to Shaw in Traffic
A beautiful combo by Shaw and Hamilton. Shaw sets the screen and moves straight to the basket before the defense has had a chance to switch. Hamilton drops a dime and that’s it, easy buckets. As it stands, Hamilton and Shaw are poised to step into the roles of Scheid and Wolf respectively. If Hamilton continues dropping dimes and Shaw continues to move aggressively toward the basket, those shoes might be a little easier to fill.
Another great combo by Shaw and Hamilton (with a little help from Scheid) in transition. Hamilton certainly knows how to put in work on both sides of the court. Anticipating the pass and stealing the ball to let Shaw get the bucket in transition. Scheid’s screen allows Hamilton to get that perfect bounce pass and with aggressive movement toward the basket there’s no stopping Shaw.
Sancataldo from Down Under
This is a rare moment when neither Scheid nor Wolf is on the court. Not surprisingly, it’s the end of the fourth quarter and the Wildcats are up by a lot. These are the players the Wildcats expect to bring heat off the bench, and of course there’s Shaw. Laya Hartman has got to make those uncontested threes, especially when movement off the ball gives her that perfect open look; it’s going to be a huge part of the Wildcat offense. Luckily, when you have Shaw on your team fighting for the offensive board, you should get plenty of second chances. Byrdy Galernik’s quick hands and Jess Sancataldo’s quick feet make easy points for the ‘Cats. Wolf led the Wildcats with 86 offensive rebounds but Northwestern was still second to last in the Big Ten with only 36.1 per game. Shaw’s going to have to make some big boards like this to fill the gap left by Wolf and give the ‘Cats a better chance in Big Ten play.
The Bottom Line
With guards like Sydney Wood, Burton and Pulliam, movement will be a huge part of the Wildcat offense. You can expect to see a lot of driving and cycling out to try to recreate the solid inside-out offense they had last year. It’s clear that Shaw and Hamilton will be expected to step up and fill the roles of Wolf and Scheid. If Shaw stays aggressive in the paint while staying out of foul trouble, she can fill Wolf’s shoes and more. Hamilton drops dimes like Scheid and brings great movement on and off the ball. If she can connect on her three-point shots more consistently, she will be a major player for Northwestern. While the ‘Cats have suffered big losses, they have the talent to compete in the Big Ten and with the top-25 teams in the country.