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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

COLUMN: NIU women’s basketball has become the face of mediocrity

Alyssa Queen
Then-junior guard Jayden Marable attempts to dribble past a defender in an NIU women’s basketball home game against Ball State University on Feb. 18, 2023. Marable, the shortest player listed on NIU’s current roster, is second in rebounds per game for the Huskies. (Alyssa Queen | Northern Star)

NIU women’s basketball (9-9, 3-4 MAC) has dropped to .500 for the fifth time this season as it lost by double-digits for the seventh time this season.

The Huskies have capitalized on the cushy games in their schedule, going 8-2 against teams with losing records, but they are now 1-7 against teams who are currently .500 or better, with their win over Detroit Mercy standing alone in the category.

There is something to be said for winning the games you are supposed to win, but the incapability to put together an impressive victory is firmly establishing the Huskies to be non-factor in the MAC.

NIU has given up exactly one more point than they have scored this season. Its impact on the MAC is nearly invisible.


The Huskies tend to live and die by the three-point shot, ranking third in the MAC in attempts from behind the arc. If NIU wants to play that game, it needs a stronger presence near the rim.

On paper, the Huskies’ rebounding looks solid, ranking third in rebounds per game. However, the Huskies also give up the third most rebounds per game at the same time.

The success on the boards has less to do with superior skill and more to do with poor shooting percentages on both ends that give high volume opportunities to both NIU and its opponent. NIU’s shooting percentage ranks seventh in the MAC with 39.3%. NIU’s opponent shooting percentage is the second lowest with 38.1%.

Senior guard Jayden Marable, the shortest player on the Huskies, is second on the team in rebounds. NIU’s taller players need to step up and help on the boards to increase its scoring opportunities for its low-percentage scoring attack.


The Huskies are severely lacking momentum-shifting plays on defense to accompany their long-range offense. Out of 12 teams in the MAC, NIU ranks 11th in blocks and 10th in steals.

Just like the rebounding, Marable is carrying too much of the big-play burden. Marable is leading the team in steals with 12 more than the next player, and she has more blocks than anyone other than 6-foot-3-inch senior forward Brooke Stonebraker.

The Huskies cannot expect to win games by simply making more good shots than their opponent. Attacking the ball on defense is a necessary addition to NIU’s gameplan to create extra scoring chances and build momentum.


It’s not as exciting as blocks and steals, but NIU can also create more opportunities by getting to the free throw line. Although their shooting percentage from the line is fifth in the conference, the Huskies rank ninth in the MAC in free throw attempts.

Crashing the net with a more aggressive approach will not only increase the volume of those free throws and lead to more easy points, but it will also force teams to put star forwards on the bench to avoid fouling out.

Additionally, more frequent paint pushes may take defenders away from the perimeter and open up the long-range offense where the Huskies thrive.


While NIU may not have the biggest height advantage, that is not an excuse to slack in physicality. If 5-foot-6-inch Marable can produce rebounds, blocks and paint scoring, then what excuse does the rest of the team have for playing small?

Seven of the 13 players on NIU’s roster are seniors or above. These are experienced players that should be capable of the positioning and the physicality required to play multi-faceted basketball.

If the Huskies continue their heavy reliance on three-point shots without backing it up with more tough and aggressive play, they will remain the standard of mediocre basketball in the MAC.


At 1 p.m. Saturday the Huskies return to the Convocation Center, looking to go back above .500 with a win over the University of Akron. Video streaming will be available on ESPN+ and audio streaming can be found on The Varsity Network. Live stats can be tracked on SIDEARM Stats.

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