Aug. 31, 1997
Wildcats Look to Earn Another Invitation to the Big Dance in 1998
After earning an invitation to the NCAA tournament last season, the Northwestern Wildcats look to make it three-straight postseason appearances for just the second time in school history. The Wildcats went to the NWIT in 1996 and the NCAA tournament last year. Northwestern concluded the 1996-97 season 17-11 overall, falling 61-46 in the first round of the NCAAs to George Washington in Washington, D.C..
Windy City Bombers
Last year's Wildcats led the country in three-point field goals made per game, averaging 7.2 per contest (202 in 28 games). The 'Cats finished second in the NCAA in three-point percentage at 40.9 percent (202-for-494), just behind Buffalo's 41.2 percent (200-for-485).
While NU may have lost Michele Ratay (79 threes, .407 3 pt. pct) to graduation, the Wildcats return their top long-range shooter from last year in second-team All-Big Ten forward Kristina Divjak (Junior/Dyer, Ind./Lake Central). Divjak finished fifth in the country in three-point percentage (.442) and 11th in the country in three-pointers made per game last year (2.9, 80 in 28 games).
The Wildcats also return third-team All-Big Ten guard Megan Chawansky (Junior/Avon Lake, Ohio/Avon Lake). Chawansky finished third on the team in scoring (15.9 ppg) and three-pointers made (35), while leading the team in rebounding (6.3 rpg).
The Charity Stripe
A big key to the Wildcats' success last season came from the free throw line. NU finished fourth in the NCAA in free throw percentage at .748 (549-of-734). The Wildcats actually made twice as many from the line as their opponents. The 'Cats drained 549 while opponents combined to hit just 268 free throws. Even more remarkable is that opponents attempted just 411 free throws last season - 138 fewer than the Wildcats total made free throws.
A Record Setting Year
Last year's Wildcats set or tied nine individual records while seven team records fell.
Among the new team records was three-point field goals in a season. NU's 202 treys is not only a school mark, but a Big Ten record as well. The team also set new marks for three pointers made in a game (13), three pointers attempted in a game (28) and season (494), most free throws made in a game (32) and best free throw percentage in a game (.941) and season (.748).
Another record to fall last season was the NU single-season attendance record. An average of 1,473 fans attended games last year at Welsh-Ryan Arena, breaking the old mark of 1,260 set in the 1995-96 season. Last season's total attendance of 17,672 (in 12 home dates) also was a school record.
Here's where the Wildcats ranked among the NCAA leaders last season (returning players in italics):
Scoring: Michele Ratay 44th 19.0 ppg
Kristina Divjak t46th 18.9 ppg
FT Pct.: Michele Ratay 4th 87.2 pct.
Kristina Divjak 28th 83.0 pct.
Assists: Amber DeWall 11th 6.6 apg
3 pt. FG Pct.: Kristina Divjak 5th 44.2 pct.
Michele Ratay 28th 40.7 pct.
3 pt. FG made: Kristina Divjak 11th 2.9 tpg
Michele Ratay 12th 2.8 tpg
3 pt. FG made: 1st 7.2 tpg
3 pt. FG pct.: 2nd 40.9 pct.
FT Pct.: 4th 74.8 pct.
Scoring: 17th 78.3 ppg
Incoming Freshman Class Ranked High
The Wildcats signed five players to national letters of intent during the November early signing period. This recruiting class has been ranked among the top eight in the country by both the Women's Basketball News Service and Blue Star Index.
- Becky Fisher (6-4, C, Des Moines, Iowa/Dowling)
- Clarissa Flores (5-8, G, Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young)
- Chala Holland (6-1, F, Ardmore, Pa./Delaware County Christian)
- Dana Leonard (5-6, G, Glenview, Ill./Glenbrook South)
- Tami Sears (6-2, F, Libertyville, Ill./Libertyville)
Head Coach Don Perrelli
Don Perrelli (Southern Connecticut State, 1961) enters his 14th season at the helm of the Wildcats and 22nd as a collegiate head coach. He has compiled a 405-213 overall mark and a 230-143 record with the Wildcats. NU has advanced to postseason six times during Perrelli's tenure. His 405 career victories ranks 30th on the all-time NCAA career win list.