Welsh-Ryan Arena is ready for its public unveiling.
The ‘Cats take the court for the first time this season.
Twenty months and $110 million later, Northwestern observers will finally get their first look at the fully renovated and modernized Welsh-Ryan Arena tonight, when the Wildcats take on McKendree University in an exhibition contest.
Despite the opponent being a Division II school with an enrollment hovering around 2,200 students, Wildcat fans don’t seem to care, as tonight’s game is sold out, a first for an NU home exhibition game.
Chris Collins’ squad should have an easy time dispatching McKendree, although you can bet he’ll still be barking out offensive adjustments that’ll bounce off the freshly plastered walls at Welsh-Ryan.
Regardless of the result, tonight will be a celebration of recent success and mark a turning point in the program’s history as the result of years of planning and hard work put into creating a contemporary arena that will both reward and suit the needs of ever-patient Northwestern fans.
Enjoy it, ‘Cats fans.
What/Where is McKendree University?
If you listen closely, you’ll hear this question asked throughout the concourse and stands of Welsh-Ryan. It’s a fair one, at that. A five-hour drive south of Evanston, McKendree is nestled in rural Southwest Illinois, just thirty minutes east of St. Louis.
Fun fact: Originally founded as the Lebanon Seminary, McKendree is the oldest college in the state of Illinois.
The last time these two teams faced off was in an exhibition contest in 2014, when the Wildcats conquered the Bearcats handily, winning 102-52.
This game won’t be much different.
The Division II program hasn’t recorded a winning season since the 2011-12 campaign, going 12-16 last year, with a 3-15 record in conference play. The Bearcats were ranked No. 11 out of fourteen teams in the preseason conference coaches poll.
Guard Nate Michael (#12) is the highest scoring returning player, as the senior averaged 14.4 points and 2.5 assists per game in 26 games. Senior guard/forward Malcolm Mabry (#2) led the team in rebounds last year, with 270 and contributed 10.5 points per game.
7:00 p.m. CT
Radio: WGN Radio AM-720, WNUR FM-89.3
Check back to CFN after the game for a review of Welsh-Ryan.