B1G Game 2: Gophers @ Northwestern (12/14/20)

Ignatius L Hoops

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Well…Let’s Get This Out of the Way

Last Meeting
Destiny Pitts went to the Williams Arena bench with 7:36 remaining and Minnesota trailing 40-47. Destiny’s Gopher career was over. Nevertheless, Minnesota rallied and Jasmine Brunson capped a Gopher comeback knocking down a game tying three (54 all) with :04.7 seconds on the clock. Advancing the ball with a time out, the Wildcats in-bounds play culminated in Veronica Burton driving the lane and dishing the ball to Lindsey Pulliam for the game winning layup. Post-game, all hell broke loose and the Gopher season went in the dumper. On the other hand, Northwestern’s season just kept rolling. The Wildcat train was only derailed by a natural disaster called covid.

When the NCAA canceled last Spring’s Big dance no team was more disappointed than the Northwestern Wildcats. They were looking forward to their 2nd NCAA appearance in head coach Joe Mckeown’s twelve seasons. (Their previous invite under McKeown was in 2015). Before 2015, to find March Madness and Northwestern mentioned in the same sentence, you must travel back to the ‘90s. NU danced in 1997, 1993, 1991, 1990, 1987 and 1982.

The ‘Cats were good-very good. They finished the season ranked 11th in the AP poll, just behind UCLA and ahead of Arizona. NU finished 16-2 in the Big Ten and 24-4 overall. Just two games into the conference season they put everyone on notice by routing Maryland 81-58 in Evanston. Maryland returned the favor later that month and the Terps and Wildcats ended the season as Big Ten co-champions.

It was Northwestern’s 2nd Big Ten title. The other was in the 1989-90 season when the Wildcats went 15-3 under Don Pernelli. Although Minnesota has three more NCAA tournament appearances than Northwestern (nine of them in the 2000’s), the Gophers have never won the Big Ten Title.

Unfortunately, the covid cancellation ended the Northwestern careers of post players 6’4 Abbie Wolf and 6’2” Abi Scheid. Both were solid players with specialties. Wolf had 31 blocks in B1G play while Scheid could knock down threes, 45-88 (.511) in conference. However, there are post options for this season: Option 1 is 6’1” junior, Courtney Shaw; maybe this will be her year. Option 2 is 6’1” Paige Mott of whom McKeown said, “we always love bringing a Philly kid here”. Option 3 is highly recruited 6’3”, Anna Morris, who is modestly described on the NU roster as, “talent-wise is a combination of Abi Scheid and Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah”. That would make her a three-point shooting, rebounding beast the likes of which have rarely roamed the American continent.

While Scheid and Wolf are gone, the guards remain and require no introduction. They are: All Big Ten First Team member, senior Lindsey Pulliam, Big Ten Defensive Player of the year, junior Veronica Burton and All Big Ten Honorable Mention, junior Sydney Wood. Not to forget senior Jordan Hamilton.

Lindsey Pulliam is the heart and soul of ‘Cats. Pulliam’s led the team in scoring every year she’s been in Evanston. A classic volume shooter she seems to be on a mission to keep the mid-range jumper alive. Although it must be noted, that Pulliam became a solid three point shooter last season knocking them down at a .364 clip.

Veronica Burton is noted for her defensive prowess; but, the point guard can fire up the offense. Last season she averaged 13.7 points 4.5 assists 3.3 steals per B1G game. Burton is also a threat from three hitting .393 of her attempts. Naturally, Burton hits .80 % of her free throws.

Sydney Wood is a tireless, pressure defender perfectly suited for McKeown’s Blizzard defense. Wood contributed a little on the offensive end with 5.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists/game in B1G play. 30.2 mi

After two productive season’s Jordan Hamilton was replaced in the starting lineup by Sydney Wood. Hamilton recovered from an early injury and had some good moments averaging 18.9 minutes in B1G play. She provides a veteran sub off the bench.

Northwestern’s offense was solid. While they were eight or nine points/game behind Maryland and Iowa, the ‘Cats 72.3 points/game was a solid 3rd in the B1G. NU led the B1G in 3 point percentage (.371). But it was the defense that drew much of the attention.

Northwestern was noted for their “Blizzard” defense. The Blizzard, a 1-1-3 match-up zone, helped hold B1G opponents to 60.4 points/game-third in the conference just behind Maryland and Rutgers. Keys to the Blizzard were the two top players forcing the ball out of the middle and into double team opportunities. It also required the post player/center to guard the opposing center one on one (this could be a weakness this year with Abbie Wolf graduated). The ‘Cats were 2nd in the B1G with 9.9 steals per game. With an adequate offense and a stingy defense, Northwestern should redeem its delayed invite to the Big Dance even if they can’t walk the red carpet as Big Ten Champs.



Common Opponent: Eastern Illinois:

In their only game before meeting Minnesota, the Wildcats made short work of Eastern Illinois. The ‘Cats led 53-22 at the half on their way to a 93-57 win.



Probable Starters (One Game Stats):

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
5’10”GSrLindsey Pulliam32186
5’9”GJrVeronica Burton25213
5’11”G/FJrSydney Wood33147
5’8”GSrJordan Hamilton33113
6’0”FJrCourtney Shaw23137


Bench (One Game Stats):

HGTPOSYRPLAYERMINAVGREB
6’1”FFrPaige Mott1341
5’7”GRJrLauryn Satterwhite1822
6’3”FFrAnna Morris402

 
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Ignatius L Hoops

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Questions from Northwesterns opener versus Eastern Illinois:

How did Courtney Shaw do in her starting debut?

Northwestern came out firing to start the second quarter and went on a 14-0 run to extend their lead to 41-16. Entering a new role this season as a starter, [Courtney] Shaw played one of the best games of her career. In less than three minutes, Shaw scored eight points, had five rebounds, three of which were offensive rebounds, and recorded two blocks. She finished the half with 13 points and shot six-of-seven.

“She did an amazing job, gave us great minutes tonight, did all the little things that we needed," Pulliam said of Shaw. "She played strong defense, rebounded, posted hard, and she did a heck of a job on defense for us, taking their big kid out. She made a great debut as a starter today."

Did the defense rest?:

“We picked up where we were last year, because of our defense,” Joe McKeown said postgame.

The Wildcats made it nearly impossible for their opponent to do anything on offense let alone feel comfortable with a basketball in their hands, as NU forced 24 turnovers and recorded 16 steals in the matchup. Veronica Burton is known for her sneaky swipes, so it was no surprise that she totaled five steals by the end of the night. Sydney Wood came out equally strong forcing five of her own, along with three other players contributing the remaining six. Those steals led to 20 fastbreak points and 32 points off turnovers for the Wildcats, as they continued to hold the momentum throughout the game.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Some Gopher Sports Notes:

FACING NORTHWESTERN • Minnesota and Northwestern will meet for the 75th time ever on Monday. It’s the fourth most-played series for Minnesota behind only Iowa (80), Wisconsin (79) and Ohio State (77).

• The all-time series is tied at 37-37. Minnesota has won six of the last eight in the series, though Northwestern snapped the Gophers' four-game win streak last year.

• In Evanston, the Wildcats hold a 19-15 series lead, but Minnesota has won three straight on Northwestern's home court (by an average score of 87.7-74.3) and five of the past six there.

• The road win streak versus Northwestern is tied for Minnesota's third longest active road win streak against one school behind Wisconsin (7) and Northern Iowa (5).

• In her career, Gophers head coach Lindsay Whalen has only lost to Northwestern once, going 5-0 as a player and 2-1 as a coach.

GOPHERS GAINING EXPERIENCE WITH YOUNG ROSTER • With nine of its 12 players either freshmen or sophomores, no team in the Big Ten has a higher percentage of its roster comprised of underclassmen than Minnesota. Wisconsin (73.3 percent) and Maryland (70) are the only other teams at 70 percent or higher.

• Through Dec. 10, the Gophers’ roster had played a combined 8,016 minutes, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten. For comparison, Purdue leads the conference with a combined 14,550 minutes, while Monday's opponent, Northwestern, is seventh with 10,160 minutes.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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Bagwell-Katalinich could start should Whalen opt to go with a smaller lineup that would have Kadi Sissoko at power forward.

But starting strong is a big key for Monday's game. Having a full roster has made it easier to hold scrimmages in practice, something Whalen hopes will help. The Gophers get a break after the Northwestern game, allowing them more work in practice before a Dec. 23 game with Indiana. After that game the Gophers don't play again until Jan. 3.
 

Frink

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More than anything I want to see a good start to this game. As Katogopher mentioned, they need to take care of the ball in the first. I'm expecting Powell to take a step forward in this game and not try and instantly drive into traffic. It's good that she's aggressive but she is smarter than what she's shown so far this year.
 

Roland Brooks

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There needs to be consequences for sloppily turning the ball over. Get ball keep ball put ball in basket.
 

Shades

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Wow, half way through the first quarter and it’s already time to turn it off.
 

whalenfan

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Sissoko is gonna be good but she makes alot of careless turnovers
 

Frink

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Already five really bad plays from Sissoko. She is really unfocused.
 

Katogopher

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Already five really bad plays from Sissoko. She is really unfocused.
Seems to be playing too fast? Everything seems rushed With her. The lane is still too wide open on defense
 

Frink

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Seems to be playing too fast? Everything seems rushed With her. The lane is still too wide open on defense
Yep the travels and the spin dribble in traffic sure look like playing too fast
 

Outsider

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Can someone, anyone, stay in front of their girl in defense. Holy wah! Play some defense. And can someone switch on defense instead of just watching them go to the goal all night.
 

Aesop70

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This is becoming unwatchable. Turnovers, poor shooting, no weakside defense, watching rebounds rather than attacking. Finding no positives. We spend so much time standing and watching after our ballhandler has picked up her dribble - while Northwestern players are constantly in motion, finding space or cutting to the basket.
I wasn't expecting to beat a ranked team, but needed to see improvement. It's not there at all.
 

Shades

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At least they didn’t throw in the towel after being down 16 in the first five minutes. I guess that’s a positive.
 

MNGirlsHoops

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We needed those non conf games as much as anybody. The chemistry isn't there.. You can either fight to it comes together or .....
 

Rickman55

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The same issues from game 1 to game 4. Coaching! Same two players with most of the turnovers....Powell and Sissoko. It doesn’t look like Sissoko’s head is in the game. Looks like she’s in a fog.
 
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