Northwestern women's hoops wins 1st game since Hankins death
EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) The Northwestern women's basketball team honored Jordan Hankins by wearing her name and number during warmups and then, in a gym filled with the school's athletes, won in its first game since her death.
The Wildcats beat Indiana 80-67 Saturday, less than a week after the sophomore guard committed suicide.
''I've coached probably close to 1,000 Division I games and it all becomes irrelevant in a situation like this,'' Northwestern's Joe McKeown said. ''We just stayed to together to support and honor Jordan.''
The body of the 19-year-old from Indianapolis was found in her dorm room on Monday. Because of the tragedy, Northwestern's game at Minnesota on Wednesday was postponed.
The Wildcats didn't want to wait any longer to get back on the court and salute Hankins.
''We just really wanted to go out there bold,'' said senior Ashley Deary, who finished with 18 points and eight assists. ''We wanted to embody her spirit, her confidence and just play with her swagger. She was just that kind of player who would got at it.''
Said senior Christen Inman: ''Our decision to go on the court was for making (Jordan) proud.''
A block of roughly 300 of Northwestern's 472 total athletes - including the men's basketball team in their jerseys - clustered in the west end of the 8,117-seat Welsh-Ryan and stood for much of the game.
McKeown and his players credited that support with helping them get through the game.
''I'm sure that played into the score tonight,'' McKeown said. ''That was probably worth 10 points.''
After the victory, the team huddled at center court with players wrapping their arms over each other's shoulders while the band played the alma mater. The crowd followed with a restrained cheer.
The handshakes and hugs with the Indiana players and staff lasted a little longer than usual. That included a postgame chat between McKeown and Hoosiers coach Teri Moren, who wore a black shirt with a ''JH5'' logo on the shoulder after the game.
''We knew there was going to be a lot of emotion behind this,'' Moren said. ''I love Joe. I just made sure he knew we had been thinking about them and praying for them from afar.''
There was a pregame moment of silence for Hankins and a photo montage of her on the scoreboard. The arena announcer somberly told the crowd of a ''loss in Northwestern's family.''
Wildcats sophomore guard Amber Jamison wore Hankins' No. 5 jersey and made her first start in 18 games. She finished with 13 points.
''Amber and Jordan were unbelievably close,'' McKeown said. ''Amber asked me if she could wear her number.
''The whole team wanted to wear the shirts before the game. It was a heartfelt decision by everybody.''
The Wildcats got a boisterous boost of solidarity from fellow student-athletes in the school's 18 other sports programs. Most in the group wore white and purple shirts and stomped, clapped and cheered when Northwestern made a shot or grabbed a rebound.
The lower bowl of the arena, where crowds for women's games usually have been just under 1,000 this season, was nearly full.
''I think they had a terrific crowd that energized them,'' Moren said. ''When they made runs, you could just feel it in the place.''
The 5-foot-8 Hankins played in 11 games, all off the bench, and averaged 3.6 points. Her name, photo and stats remained on the team's pregame information materials.
''She was just this big smile,'' McKeown said. ''Just this personality. Everybody loved her.''
''There's no textbook or playbook on how to handle these things,'' he said. ''I've been head coach for 30-something years and everything I'm telling you is right off the top of my head right now.''
According to a Northwestern athletic department spokesman, services for Hankins will take place Thursday in Indianapolis at the Eastern Star Church at 11 a.m.