Deeper and faster, Northeastern women’s basketball team reloads for postseason push

Members of the Northeastern women’s basketball team dance and sing at midcourt during practice in the Cabot Center.
A revitalized roster is raising hopes for the Huskies as coach Bridgette Mitchell begins her second season at Northeastern. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

Halle Idowu was working on her post moves with a coach. A long day of classes and practice had ended. Idowu, a recent transfer from Toledo, was intent on making it longer.

“If we’re talking about hard work, Halle is the definition of it,” Northeastern women’s basketball coach Bridgette Mitchell said of Idowu, a versatile 5-foot-11 junior who plays both guard and forward. “You see her right now, she’s the last one in the gym.”

The Huskies open their second season under Mitchell at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Boston University. Their game kicks off a Northeastern doubleheader that will conclude with the men’s team visiting BU at 7 p.m.

Idowu is among eight newcomers to the recast women’s team following Mitchell’s 14-18 debut season (8-10 in the Colonial Athletic Association), a seven-game improvement over the 2020-21 season. Northeastern was picked to finish eighth in the CAA this year, based on a preseason vote of the conference’s 13 head coaches.

Mitchell believes the Huskies can exceed those expectations by pushing the pace as often as possible with their deepened rotation.

“Our defense is going to lead into our offense,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to get a lot of transition baskets because we’ve got some athletes. We’re going to be in your face. I’m excited about the aggression and excitement that we have on the defensive end. It’s going to change some things.”

As a high-energy veteran capable of guarding every position, Idowu promises to be a leader of the Huskies’ switching defense. She grew up in suburban Chicago playing basketball on boys’ teams.

“In my neighborhood, I was pretty much the only girl,” Idowu said. “I got used to the bumps and bruises and then I handed it back to them.”

In high school and at Toledo, Idowu was known for producing in all phases of the game. Her approach to basketball is mirrored by her major in human services.

“It can lead to numerous things—social work, the psychology field,” she says. “I just want to support others.”

That exemplifies the culture Mitchell was striving to create as she replenished her roster while also hiring two new assistant coaches.

“The biggest takeaway for me in the recruiting process is having young women that want to be the best possible basketball player and also a strong student,” says Mitchell, who achieved that balance in her playing career at Duke (2006-10). “We’re in the business of empowering these young women to be intelligent, impactful, strong women of character. My goal is that they change the world when they leave here.”When the Huskies make stops defensively, the ball will funnel to another transfer, Derin Erdogan. The 5-foot-6 junior point guard spent the previous two seasons at Arizona. At the 2018 Under-16 European Championships in Lithuania, Erdogan drove Turkey to fourth place with 11.3 points per game and 3.7 assists. In a quarterfinal upset of undefeated Russia, Erdogan led Turkey with 18 points and 4 assists.

“I love her energy and I really look forward to her being my point guard and sharing in our common knowledge,” Idowu says. “Sometimes I can’t read which way she’s going to go, if she’s going to shoot—and I enjoy it. She has a different playing style.”

The Huskies are looking forward to cashing in on Erdogan’s experiences at Arizona, where she adapted to the more athletic NCAA style.

“In Turkey, we had a whole different system, the pace was slower,” Erdogan says. “In my first year of college it was really hard for me to get into that shape. But now I’m used to that pace.”

“Derin is our engine,” Mitchell says. “We go as Derin goes, and she’s taken on that leadership point guard role. I expect her to be an impact player immediately, and I think that she’s adjusted really well to that.”

Top returners from last season include sophomores Gemima Motema, who made the CAA’s all-rookie team last year with 9.0 points per game at guard; and Asha Parker, a 6-foot-2 forward who shot 51.7% from the field last season.

Mitchell expects all three freshmen—including 6-3 forward Oralye Kiefer, the Huskies’ tallest player—to contend for playing time as the team establishes an identity.

“Oralye is one of the most determined freshmen I’ve ever coached,” Mitchell says. “She is very focused, she’s driven, she’s disciplined and she’s really going to focus in on what we’re asking her to do.”

“We’re bringing a lot of length and disruption to opponents,” adds Mitchell. “That’s our expectation and that’s what we want to be known for.”

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