Australian Nationals offer challenge right off the bat

By David Lance

NIU’s women’s basketball season starts on Sunday at 2 p.m., and immediately the Huskies’ valor will be tested.

Coming to the Chick Evans Field House for an exhibition game will be the Australian National Team, a group that beat Vanderbilt University Nov. 8, Lamar University Nov. 9 and Louisiana State University Nov. 10. All three of the teams are in the Top 20.

“We’ll see what we’re made of,” NIU head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle said. “We’re going to try and make a major statement. They’re like an Olympic team from Australia. You are going to see a great team in here. They’re very legitimate.

“This is the best team they’ve ever sent us. We’re really flattered we were a team they wanted to play.”

Albright-Dieterle said she expects more errors than usual Sunday from her team. But she won’t be seen pulling her hair out on the bench.

“We’re not concerned with mistakes,” Albright-Dieterle said. “If we weren’t making mistakes, we’re playing too slow.

“We want to look at our system. We don’t need to play our best game ever, but we do want a true picture of how well the team can play together.

“We need to be able to look at what our strengths and weaknesses are and how we can fine tune, because (Nov. 24) it is going to (count) when we host Michigan State University. The MSU game could mean whether we get in the NCAA Tournament this year.”

The Huskies like the tempo fast, and so does their opponent. Australia won 80-75 at Vanderbilt, 87-74 at Lamar and 95-56 at LSU.

“They run the floor well,” Albright-Dieterle said. “They are a very skillful team. They’re not quick, but they can shoot.”

Of Australia’s players, Albright-Dieterle is impressed with 6-0, 170-pound forward Karen Dalton—”their best post player”—and 5-5 point guard Michelle Timms.

Timms will be paired against NIU’s heralded newcomer E.C. Hill. The game will mark the official unveiling of the 5-7 sophomore from Whitney Young High School, where she became the No. 1-rated high school guard in the nation.

“It’ll be a good test for her off the bat,” Albright-Dieterle said. “Anytime you start a point guard who is not used to the system you run, you can’t plan on anything working perfectly right away. But everything looks promising. We’re excited to be on our home court.”