If you’re a women’s basketball fan, clear your afternoon Sunday.
You’ll want to make your way to Lincoln Park.
DePaul will be hosting Northwestern at McGrath-Phillips Arena in a city-suburban rivalry game (4 p.m. tipoff) that features the two best college teams in the state of Illinois and some of the area’s best homegrown talent. Combined, the rosters include nine Chicago area players.
“What I love about Northwestern is that they play like we play,” said DePaul coach Doug Bruno. “They run the floor well, they hit 3-pointers, and they like to establish their post game, too. It should be a really good game.”
Northwestern brings a 6-0 record into Lincoln Park and starts a sophomore and two freshmen, including 6-foot-1 rookie forward Maggie Lyon out of New Trier. She’s one of Northwestern’s leading scorers.
One of DePaul’s best players is also a freshman from the area. Forward Megan Podkowa, a Glenview native who starred at Trinity last season, has helped the Blue Demons to a 5-2 record.
It’s probably no surprise that Podkowa and Lyon have made such seamless transitions. They both carried high expectations into college.
“Along with (Bolingbrook’s) Morgan Tuck, who went to UConn, (Niles West’s) Jewell Loyd, who went to Notre Dame and (Whitney Young’s) Janee Thompson, who went to Kentucky, Megan and Maggie were among the top recruits in the state of Illinois last year,” Bruno said. “Megan is already showing that she will have an impactful place in our program, and Maggie is doing the same thing at Northwestern.”
Podkowa keyed DePaul’s 68-67 win last week over Hampton at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands with 12 points and 8 rebounds in just 14 minutes.
At Northwestern, Lyon has started all six games, is averaging 34 minutes per game and is second on the team in scoring with a 15-point average. She’s also pulling down 5.3 rebounds per game and is second on the team in assists and tied for first in steals. Her 14 three-pointers lead the team.
“It used to be, 10 or 20 years ago, that freshmen would come in thinking, ‘OK, I’ll wait my turn, ’” said Northwestern coach Joe McKeown. “They knew they weren’t quite ready for college basketball.
“But now, these kids coming in are confident. They played so much with AAU basketball, and some of them have their own trainers and shooting coaches. Freshmen now come in feeling that they’re ready to play and they show that fearlessness from the very start. They’re not afraid of anything.”
Games against DePaul have typically been a scary proposition for Northwestern. Since 1999, DePaul has won 13 of the last 14 games in the series.
But in recent years, the games have become much more competitive and in 2009, the Wildcats got a victory over DePaul at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.
“Last year was a good game, too. It was a tie game with about two to three minutes to go and then we had some defensive breakdowns that DePaul took advantage of,” McKeown said. “The games the previous two years were also really competitive.
“You always hear about how you can’t have a rivalry unless both teams are competitive and winning games and I see that starting to happen in our series with DePaul. This has become a really fun game for both teams and I think it’s just really good for women’s basketball in this area that we’re playing this game and that we’re trying to grow the sport here.”
Also representing the Chicago area in the game will be, from DePaul: guard Megan Rogowski (Hersey), forward Kelsey Smith (St. Charles North) and guard Chanise Jenkins (Whitney Young); and from Northwestern: guard Tessa Haldes (Whitney Young), guard Meghan McKeown (Loyola) and guard La’Terria Taylor (Von Steuben).
Guard Centrese McGee (Thorton Fractional North) is on the DePaul roster, but she just transferred from Illinois and won’t be eligible until next season.
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