Sept. 10, 1997
EVANSTON, Ill. - Coming off a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the 23rd season of Northwestern women's basketball opens with the first round of the Preseason NIT on Fri., Nov. 14, when NU hosts Southern Illinois in Welsh-Ryan Arena. The complete schedule was announced today by 14th-year head coach Don Perrelli.
Last season, the Wildcats were the NCAA Three-Point Champions with an average of 7.2 three pointers made per contest. Overall, the Wildcats hit a Big Ten record 202 treys on the season. NU's three-point percentage of .409 ranked second in the NCAA behind Buffalo's .412.
The 'Cats also excelled from the charity stripe, leading the Big Ten and finishing fourth in the NCAA in free throw percentage at .748. NU also ranked 17th in the NCAA in scoring at 78.3 ppg.
The Wildcats return second-team All-Big Ten forward Kristina Divjak along with third-team All-Big Ten guard Megan Chawansky and senior point guard Amber DeWall. Divjak is the top returnee in the Big Ten Conference, and among the top 25 returnees in the nation, in four offensive categories: scoring (18.9 ppg), three pointers made per game (2.9), three-point percentage (.442) and free throw percentage (.830).
Chawansky has one of the best all-around games in the conference, finishing eighth last season in the Big Ten in assists (3.7 apg) and 10th in scoring (15.9 ppg). DeWall ranked 11th in the NCAA with 6.6 assists per game last year, and had a 2.2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio (185 assists, 85 turnovers).
Northwestern's incoming freshman class of Dana Leonard, Clarissa Flores, Tami Sears, Becky Fisher and Chala Holland is one of the most heralded in team history. They were ranked among the top seven recruiting classes in the nation by both the Women's Basketball News Service and Blue Star Index. Three of the freshmen (Leonard, Flores and Sears) hail from the Chicagoland area.
"This is, without question, one of the best freshmen classes we've ever recruited," said Perrelli. "All of them have incredible talent. The key will be how quickly they adapt to the college game.
"Making the NCAAs last season was a big lift for our program. We certainly feel this team has the talent to make a run at a Big Ten title and return to the NCAA tournament."