Peyton Kelderman Jan. 21

Northwest women’s basketball sophomore guard Peyton Kelderman dribbles the ball on offense in the midst of the Bearcats’ 72-48 win over Lincoln Jan. 21. Kelderman totaled 5 points, two rebounds and two assists against the Blue Tigers.

 

After 18 games, Northwest women’s basketball has its first rematches of the season. The Bearcats will travel four hours for their first rematch against No. 13 Nebraska-Kearney Jan. 26 in Kearney, Nebraska.

It’s been 46 days since the Lopers and Bearcats clashed Dec. 10 in Bearcat Arena. In the game, Kearney was able to pull away early, outscoring the ’Cats 21-8 in the first quarter. The Lopers didn’t let off the gas pedal and defeated Northwest 77-51.

Coach Austin Meyer said the Bearcats are a different team than when they first played Kearney. A lot of the difference, he said, comes from a newly healthy player.

“Having Emma Atwood back the last few games has definitely changed our team,” Meyer said. “We play a larger rotation now — we’re playing 10 kids. We’ve had more people step up within our rotation.”

The Lopers (18-3, 11-2 MIAA) are the No. 1 defense in the MIAA, allowing just 50 points per game. The ’Cats (10-8, 5-7 MIAA) are No. 6 in the MIAA, allowing 61.1 points. Offensively, the two squads are fairly similar. Northwest is No. 10 in the MIAA averaging 61.9 points, while Kearney is No. 8 in the conference, scoring an average of 67.5 points.

Sophomore forward Kelsey Fields said the games against Central Missouri and Lincoln showed the Bearcats they can keep up with any team they go against.

“We’ll go into this weekend knowing we can play with them and just go with confidence,” Fields said. “We will go in thinking that we can win and just play our best and see what the outcome is.”

Meyer said Kearney is a tough opponent for many different reasons.

“They’re long; they have length and they have height,” Meyer said. “They have a lot of kids that have been in their system for five or six years. They do a really good job of scouting, they’re not going to let your shooters get a lot of shots. They’re going to kind of know the plays we’re going to run. So for us, it’s just executing our half-court kind of flow offense and making sure we’re getting good ball movement.”

After the rematch with the Lopers, the Bearcats will travel five hours Jan. 28 to Hay, Kansas, for their second rematch of the season this time against Fort Hays State (15-6, 10-3 MIAA). The Tigers have defeated the ’Cats in their last eight meetings.

The last installment of the rivalry between both squads saw Hays win 67-52 Dec. 11 in Bearcat Arena. The Tigers trailed 33-29 at halftime but took over in the third quarter, outscoring Northwest 25-7.

Hays is the second-best defense in the MIAA, allowing 56.2 points per game. Northwest will play the top two defenses in the MIAA within three days of each other.

Sophomore guard Molly Hartnett said the Bearcats are improving with every game they play, and they’ll be prepared to take on challenges like the top defenses in the conference.

“I feel like I stay pretty confident in our team,” Hartnett said. “I know what we’re capable of, we put the time in the gym so don’t have any reasons to not feel confident. It’s just a matter of how well we play on the court and if we can come together and do what we know how to do.”

After its two-game road trip, Northwest will return to Bearcat Arena once again. Before then, though, the Bearcats will look to improve their 3-3 record on the road. Meyer said winning on the road in the MIAA is tough to do.

“These are two of the toughest places to play in the league, so we just want to go in there and compete,” Meyer said. “We need to take it one possession at a time, we know we’re not going to be able to play a perfect game. We got to make sure to focus on the next play and if things go against us, we can’t get ourselves down. We just want to go in there, play hard, play well and compete and just kind of see what happens.”

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