Northwest women’s basketball started its season off undefeated, going 2-0 at the University of Nebraska-Kearney Tournament Nov. 11-12. Now, the team looks ahead to the Fort Hays State Tournament, where the Bearcats will be facing Colorado Mesa Nov. 18 and Minnesota State-Mankato Nov. 19.
The Bearcats had a successful weekend at the Kearney tournament with a win over Southwest Minnesota State 95-86 and Minnesota-Crookston 70-58. Coach Austin Meyer said it was a good weekend, but the team still has a lot of things to work on.
“I thought we played really well offensively,” Meyer said. “The first game, scoring 95 points and being really efficient, we shot it well and played unselfish. We took care of the ball and shared it, but we gotta get better defensively.”
In the first game against the Mustangs, junior forward Jayna Green and sophomore guard Molly Hartnett led the way for the Bearcats with 20 points each. Freshman guard Ella Moody added another 18 points off the bench to propel the Bearcats to 95 points — the most points scored by Northwest in one game since Feb. 25, 2017 — and, ultimately, a win.
The Mustangs played a quick up-and-down brand of basketball and Green said that also helped the offensive output.
“I mean, throughout the preseason and stuff, we’ve been focusing a lot on the score part because, in the past, our defense has been really good and the scoring is the part we’ve needed to work on,” Green said. “Southwest Minnesota State is a team that likes to play fast, so I think that gave us more possessions, but we have started to trust each other and the work we put in.”
In the second game against Minnesota-Crookston, the team struggled from the field with a shooting percentage of just 40%, but the defense stepped up and held the Golden Eagles to just 58 points. Defensively, sophomore guard Evelyn Vazquez and freshman forward Lauren Eiman combined for seven of the Bearcats’ nine steals.
Meyer said Northwest has improved its bench play in the two regular season games so far this season.
“We’ve improved, and there’s been a little more clarity,” Meyer said. “Ella Moody was one that came off the bench in the first game and had 18 points, five assists and no turnovers and played really well. In the second game, Lauren Gillig came off the bench, and she had 13 points shooting 3-for-5 from three. We were doing some things not just with our starters, but people coming off the bench.”
Northwest will prepare to head to Hays, Kansas, and face Colorado Mesa and Minnesota State. Both teams made the Division II NCAA Tournament a season ago, and they’re two teams Meyer has never faced as coach of the Bearcats.
Meyer said this is the level of teams they need to face to prepare them for MIAA play.
“It’s two really good teams,” Meyer said. “You know, we’re at a point now where we feel like we need to be playing these quality teams in the nonconference just to prepare us for our league as good as it is, so it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”
Colorado Mesa is sitting at 0-2, with the second defeat being a 13-point loss to No. 6 West Texas A&M Nov. 11. Minnesota State is currently 1-0 with a 110-42 point win over North Central Nov. 14.
Meyer said he believes each of these games will be a different look for the Bearcats.
“Minnesota-Mankato presses pretty much all game long,” Meyer said. “So we will have to be ready for that. Colorado Mesa is a little different this year, they lost a couple kids, but still a good defensive team that plays really hard. So it’ll be fun, but it’ll be a big challenge for us.”