Coming out of its first weekend of action, Northwest women’s basketball did something in the first two games that the Bearcats failed to do in the opening weekend last year: win.
Northwest started its regular season in Kearney, Nebraska, at the UNK Tournament that the Lopers hosted Nov. 8-9. The first game of the season was a rematch of the opening game from last year against Wayne State. The second was another rematch against Minnesota-Crookston.
The difference, for the most part, wasn’t noticeable in the first game Nov. 8. The Bearcats, who lost to Wayne State by 18 a season ago, dropped the initial game of the season 61-57. The film from the loss, junior guard Jaelyn Haggard joked, was nothing worth watching.
“We talked about going into that fourth quarter against Wayne that we’d get close or get it tied, then we’d turn it over,” Northwest coach Austin Meyer said. “We always got to the point where we just weren’t getting over the hump.”
The hump that Meyer referenced was possibly that Northwest shot 40% from the field and 3-of-15 from three. Or it could have been the fact that the Bearcats, defensively, held Wayne State to shooting 37% from the field, but allowed the Wildcats to shoot 45% from three.
Less than 24 hours later after the loss, the Bearcats were taking the court against Crookston. For the first 39 minutes of the contest, Northwest found itself in the same position that it was in against Wayne State.
The Bearcats trailed 16-9 after the first quarter, 36-31 at the haftlime break, 50-46 after three quarters and found a way to surmount the aforementioned hump to capture their first win of the season.
“Pulling that win out was huge for us,” Meyer said. “We obviously got down 14, but we didn’t quit. We battled back, didn’t feel like we came out ready to play, but we fought.”
The 66-64 victory highlighted senior Kendey Eaton’s second stat-filled showing in as many games. The guard capped off the night with two free throws with five seconds left that would secure a Northwest win. Eaton finished with 30 points and two assists. The most impressive part of her night was, perhaps, the two buckets that won the game.
“Anytime Kendey goes to the free-throw line, I’m pretty confident she’s gonna knock them down,” Haggard said. “She’s a great leader. … Her being on the floor gives everybody an extra boost of confidence.”
Another week gives the program a new glimpse of evaluation. The Bearcats, Haggard said, learned that it isn’t always offense that wins games, it’s good people on the defensive side as well.
A confidence boost, Meyer said, is something that the Bearcats got from the first win of the season, one that is welcomed ahead of the team’s stretch of home games.
The sense of being in Bearcat Arena, Haggard said, provides a sense of comfort that the team doesn’t get on the road.
“The home-court advantage is going to be huge,” Haggard said. “I think we’re going to be able to be really comfortable and confident whenever we’re able to get on our floor.”