Northwestern women’s basketball 2022-23 player reviews: Caroline Lau

Mar 27, 2023 - 3:30 PM
Syndication: HawkCentral
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

With the women’s basketball season over, it’s time to recap the performance of the squad’s players. Today we’ll look at Caroline Lau.

The first-year guard earned more minutes as the season progressed, playing a season-high 36 minutes against Nebraska in late February. Against Chicago State, Lau had her best game, dropping 20 points off 3-of-6 shooting from deep while snagging seven rebounds and six assists.

Personally, having watched her star for St. Luke’s School in Connecticut before Northwestern, my hopes were high for her first season. In a mid-February 2022 showdown at my high school, Millbrook School, Lau carried her squad to a 63-56 victory, dazzling her shooting by knocking down countless deep treys, showing her speed by dashing and darting past defenders on her way to the rim and flexing her range, swishing one triple just steps over half court.

The talent is there for Lau, and it’s ready to burst. But as a whole, Lau’s first season at Northwestern was a mixed bag of play.


2022-23 Statistics: 20.8 minutes per game, 5.7 points per game, 2.6 assists per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, 35.1 FG%, 31.3 3P%, 65.0 FT%.

Lau’s 5.7 points per game were good for fifth-highest on the squad, while her 31.3 3P% ranked second behind Caileigh Walsh. Lau struggled to score out of the gate, but after a 13-point game against Ohio State in mid-January, she averaged just shy of eight points per game the rest of the way.

This chart is courtesy of CBB Analytics.

 CBB Analytics

Lau’s ability to pass the rock is her best asset, shown by her assist percentage, ranking in the 91st percentile in women’s D1 basketball.

Shot distribution

This chart is courtesy of CBB Analytics.

 CBB Analytics

Lau’s shot selection was made up mostly of three point attempts and looks at the rim. Either way, Lau was hardly efficient, shooting a blisteringly cold 36.5% from within four-and-a-half feet of the basket. From beyond the arc, Lau shot 31.3% — not terrible, but the number has room to improve.

The shot distribution chart is even more telling. The large clump of blue in the paint indicates a player who struggles to finish through traffic. Too many times last season, Lau forced up rushed and contested shots at the rim. The guard not only needs to work on her touch within five feet of the hoop, but also knowing when to slow down or speed up to keep defenders off balance around the rim. Those two skills are crucial for Lau’s ability to provide consistent offense for the ‘Cats, a team that had only two players finish the season averaging double-digit points.

The Good

Lau’s quickness and ball skills shined this season. She always pushed the pace in transition, playing with a quick tempo to get open looks for her teammates. Lau’s mix of ball handling and speed allowed her to get past defenders, while creating space for herself to pass or shoot.

In this play against Southern Illinois, Lau’s speed and ball fake bamboozles her defenders, giving her an easy look at the rim in the last seconds of the first quarter. That kind of speed and control of the basketball is a lethal tool for Lau.

But Lau’s best moments came when she looked to find her teammates.

On this play, Lau’s quickness allows her to dribble her way into the paint easily, immediately attracting two defenders. But her ability to fling the ball into the corner using her left hand, setting up the Kaylah Rainey triple is something that most guards can’t do — especially first-years. A difficult pass that she does effortlessly, Lau’s vision and ability to find her teammates make her a special facilitator in Northwestern’s offense.

Mix in an ability to hit the deep ball when she’s feeling it and incredible range too, and Lau’s tools scream she can be elite.

The Bad

Consistency was a real issue for the first-year guard, who only scored in double figures four times, all of which came in the second half of the year. Likewise, Lau made multiple threes in only five of her 30 appearances. As someone Northwestern wants to rely on for scoring and shot making, that’s problematic.

Part of the issue Lau has with her shooting, comes from her form.

Although Lau has the ability to make threes, her form isn’t helping her. It’s unbalanced, with her left leg kicking out behind her and a small forward lean with her upper body as she releases her shot. That’s a difficult movement to repeat, something that Lau needs to work on if she wants to shoot more efficiently from the field and improve her 65% rate at the charity stripe.

Also, Lau’s quickness sometimes makes her play too fast. Offensively, that means losing control of the ball, silly turnovers or off-balanced shots near the basket. Lau needs to learn how to change tempos to create space, rather than pushing down on the accelerator all the time.

Defensively, her speed can be an issue too. On this play, Lau sprints over to help trap the ball, causing her to lose her balance and commit a foul. That’s a silly foul, especially when Lau is in a good position to force a turnover.

Lau’s overall defense has some flaws too. Although she’s always in a great defensive stance, she’s not quick enough laterally to hold it as defenders move side to side. This forces Lau to break out of her defensive stance to run after the ball, losing her position when playing on-ball defense.

The Bottom Line

During an up and down first year, Lau flashed her skills. Offensively, she’s great at setting up teammates for good looks, has an innate ability to get into the lane and can be a good shooter from deep. But too often, her desire to play quickly backfires, causing turnovers, bad passes or other mental mistakes that hampered Northwestern.

Lau can be a star for the ‘Cats, and a big uptick in scoring should be expected next year, as she’ll be thrusted into a larger role. A nice complement next to the scoring of Walsh, if Lau can continue to find her teammates and improve from within five feet of the basket and beyond the arc, the sky’s the limit for the rising sophomore guard next season.

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