NW WBB

Northwest women’s basketball senior guard Mallory McConkey readies to drive by a defender during the Bearcats’ 68-48 win over Missouri S&T Nov. 22 in Bearcat Arena. McConkey had 4 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

 

After being on the wrong side of a 21-point comeback in the season opener, the Northwest women’s basketball team rattled off four straight wins prior to starting its 2020-21 conference schedule.

The Bearcats (4-1), who were slated to finish ninth in an MIAA preseason coaches and media poll, have tried their best to put the collapse in their first game of the season behind them, and they’ve done just that four games afterward.

“It’s been a good start,” coach Austin Meyer said. “We didn’t play any lower-level school, so hopefully it’ll prepare us for a league we know is good. Saturday (Nov. 27 against Winona State) I thought we had our best offensive half that we’ve ever had during my time here as coach.”

In the first half against Winona, Northwest scored 41 points while shooting 62.5% from the field.

Despite the Bearcats’ best start since they went 5-0 through the first five games of the 2017-18 season, Meyer said there’s still plenty of room to improve, specifically in finishing games.

The Bearcats held a 41-28 lead over the Warriors (4-1) but only won by 3 points (65-62).

“We still have to be more consistent in being able to close out games when we build leads,” Meyer said.

Sophomore forward Jayna Green said she and her teammates are using the hot start to the season as a confidence boost.

“It’s not like we’re playing bad teams; like, we’re playing really good teams,” Green said. “I think everyone’s really excited going into conference with those wins under our belt.”

Northwest will start conference play against MIAA foe Northeastern State, which was slated to finish 10th in the MIAA in a preseason coaches and media poll.

The RiverHawks’ (2-4) start to the season has gone much differently than the Bearcats’. Northeastern will enter the matchup on a three-game losing skid, most recently falling to Texas A&M-Commerce (6-0).

However, the Bearcats will be looking to avoid a result similar to their game against the RiverHawks a season ago when they lost 64-56. This time, though, the ‘Cats will play at home in the Bearcat Arena.

“I think we’ve got a little chip on our shoulder. This is kind of a revenge game, and it’s always fun opening conference at home,” Green said.

Meyer said the ‘Hawks have a lot of players getting significant minutes for the first time this year. He said Northwest will definitely need all week to prepare for them so that they’re ready for anything.

While he doesn’t want to focus on past results, Meyer said he uses the information he has from the year prior to learn tendencies. He focuses on narrowing down what’s important to relay to his players, he said, so they can focus on key aspects of the game and keep the game simple.

One of the keys for Northwest heading into MIAA play will be getting the bench involved. Through the first five games, the bench has scored an average of 19 of the Bearcats’ 61.4 total points per game.

While the bench’s contributions go further than points, Meyer said having a bench be able to go into the game at any time and make a difference is crucial, especially in a conference like the MIAA.

“It’s huge, just because when you get into a game setting, you hope everyone plays well,” Meyer said. “But if somebody is having an off night, we can go to someone else. Or if someone is in foul trouble, we can go to someone else. If there’s an injury … we knew going in that depth was going to be a good thing as long as everyone buys in.”

After Northwest’s game with Northeastern State Dec. 2, the Bearcats won’t have to wait long to be matched up with another MIAA opponent, as they’ll play Rogers State Dec. 4. Both games will be at Bearcat Arena as the team aims to continue its win streak.

Meyer and Green know that’s easier said than done against conference opponents.

“Our league is so good, and there’s really no team you can just not show up for,” Meyer said.

“Everyone knows that the MIAA is the best Division II conference in the country,” Green said. “You never know what to expect on any given night.”

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