Northwestern Wildcats women's basketball

The Northwestern Wildcats women's basketball team is the intercollegiate women's basketball program representing Northwestern University. The school competes in the Big Ten Conference in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The Wildcats play home basketball games at Welsh-Ryan Arena on the university campus in Evanston, Illinois,[2] but played the 2017–18 season at Beardsley Gym on the nearby campus of Evanston Township High School during renovations to Welsh–Ryan Arena.[3]

Northwestern Wildcats women's basketball
2018–19 Northwestern Wildcats women's basketball team
UniversityNorthwestern University
Head coachJoe McKeown (9th season)
ConferenceBig Ten
LocationEvanston, Illinois
ArenaWelsh-Ryan Arena
(Capacity: 7,039)
Student sectionWildside
ColorsPurple and White[1]
NCAA Tournament Second round
1980, 1987, 1991, 1993
NCAA Tournament Appearances
1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2015
AIAW Tournament Appearances
1979, 1980, 1981
Conference Tournament Champions


Early years (1975–1984)

The Wildcats began play in women's basketball in 1975, with Mary DiStanislao as the first head coach, who coached for five seasons, with the final two resulting in appearances in the AIAW Tournament. In 1980, Annette Lynch took over as head coach, leading the team to postseason appearances (AIAW and NCAA) in her first two seasons, with the latter (1981) being the first season in the Big Ten Conference.

Don Perrelli era (1985–1999)

In 1984, Don Perrelli became head coach of the Wildcats. In his 15-year tenure, he led the team to 5 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, a Big Ten title in 1990 (with a 24–5 record, 15–3 conference record, which remains their only conference title), and a NWIT appearance. Perrelli retired after the 1998–99 season.

Decline (1999–2008)

June Olkowski took over, coaching Northwestern for five seasons, but she was fired after finishing 10th or worse each time, never winning more than three conference games. Beth Combs was hired to coach the Wildcats in 2004, but she was fired after four seasons, highlighted with winning only 7 conference games in 4 years and never finishing higher than 10th place.

Joe McKeown era (2008–present)

Joe McKeown was hired for the 2008 season. After a 10th-place finish in his first season, they finished tied for 8th in the conference (good enough to qualify for the WNIT) the following season, their highest finish since the 1998 season. After appearing in the WNIT twice in the following four seasons, the Wildcats returned to the NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Tournament in 2015, their first appearance since 1997, in a season where they had their highest finish in the conference (1994) since 1996.[4]

All-Time Statistical Leaders

Career leaders

  • Points scored: 2,307 (Anucha Browne – 1982–85)
  • Assists: 892 (Nancy Kennelly – 1989–93)
  • Rebounds: 951 (Anucha Browne – 1982–85)
  • Steals: 236 (Moira Kennelly – 1991–94)
  • Blocks: 357 (Amy Jaeschke – 2007–2011)

Single season leaders

  • Points scored: 855 (Anucha Browne – 1985)
  • Assists: 252 (Nancy Kennelly – 1991 and 1993)
  • Rebounds: 305 (Patricia Babcock – 1993)
  • Steals: 95 (Ashley Deary – 2014–15)
  • Blocks: 106 (Amy Jaeschke – 2009–10)

Single game leaders

  • Points scored: 45 (Anucha Browne vs. St. John’s – 1984)
  • Assists: 16 (Nancy Kennelly vs. Eastern Illinois – 1993)
  • Rebounds: 26 (Julie Calahan vs. Indiana – 1981)
  • Steals: 11 (Moira Kennelly vs. UW-Milwaukee – 1993)
  • Blocks: 10 (Amy Jaeschke vs. Chicago State – 2010)

Big Ten Medal of Honor

  • 1982 – Patience Vanderbush
  • 1985 – Anucha Browne
  • 1992 – Michele Savage
  • 1993 – Nancy Kennelly
  • 1997 – Michele Ratay
  • 1999 – Megan Chawansky

Coaching history

Mary DiStanislao1975–198075–420–0
Annette Lynch1980–198489–3032–15
Don Perrelli1984–1999251–181135–1261
June Olkowski1999–200431–1087–73
Beth Combs2004–200824–957–59
Joe McKeown2008–present111–11042–76
Totals 581–566 253–419 1


NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament

The Wildcats have appeared in the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament seven times. They have a record of 3–7.

Year Round Opponent Result
1982First RoundNorth Carolina StateL 73–71
1987First Round
Second Round
Kansas State
Louisiana Tech
W 62–61 (OT)
L 82–60
1990First RoundSouth CarolinaL 76–67
1991First Round
Second Round
Washington State
W 82–62
L 105–68
1993First Round
Second Round
Georgia Tech
W 90–62
L 89–66
1997First RoundGeorge WashingtonL 61–46
2015First RoundArkansasL 57–55

NIT results

The Wildcats have appeared in the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) three times, having a combined record of 5–3. They also appeared in the National Women's Invitational Tournament (the precursor to the WNIT, with 8 teams instead of the traditional 64 the WNIT has) once, having a record of 3–1.

Year Round Opponent Result
Illinois State
Louisiana State
W 93–71
W 79–75
L 79–63
2010First Round
Second Round
Third Round
St. Bonaventure
W 79–72
W 66–62
L 65–44
2011First Round
Second Round
W 89–63
L 72–70
2014First Round
Second Round
Third Round
Ball State
W 69–55
W 88–52
L 66–65

AIAW Women's Basketball Tournament

The Wildcats appeared in the AIAW Women's Basketball Tournament (the precursor to the modern NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championship) three times (the first being in a 16 team tournament and the latter two being in a 24 team tournament) before it was discontinued in 1982. They compiled a record of 1–3. They received a bye in 1980.

Year Round Opponent Result
1979First Round
Southern Connecticut State
Louisiana Tech
W 67–61
L 88–52
1980Second RoundSouth CarolinaL 64–61
1981First RoundStephen F. AustinL 88–67


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