‘No-names’ provide keys

By Steve Dennis

NIU’s “no-names” are rapidly establishing identity.

Five unknown underclassmen that fill the paint for the NIU women’s basketball team keep coming up with key performances that have opposing coaches turning their heads.

Take DePaul’s Doug Bruno for example. The Blue Demons coach feels that NIU’s unsung heroes are the players in the post. Bruno acknowledged Foss’ game-high 37 points as the major part of the Huskies’ victory over his squad last Saturday (91-82), but he was quick to credit NIU’s inside game.

“Northern’s inside game is very, very underrated,” Bruno said. “When it’s juxtaposed compared to last year’s, I think they get the short end of the stick.”

Of course, Bruno is referring to Carol Owens and Tammy Hinchee. Owens, NIU’s all-time leading scorer (Foss needs eight points to surpass that record), and Hinchee, NIU’s all-time leading rebounder, provided a major part of the attack for the 1990 squad. But, they are gone.

Now it’s the likes of Tracy Mondek, Cindy Conner, Dianna Wingis, Tianna Burkholder and Angela Lockett. Individually, those five players don’t put up phenomenal numbers each game. But combined, they do.

And in Jane Albright’s system of a ten-player rotation, the post is doing exactly what the other team despises. They average just under 30 points per game, rip down 28 rebounds and maybe most eye-opening, have recorded 62 blocked shots.

In that DePaul victory, the players in the paint accounted for eight blocks. Eight blocks could have easily meant 16 more points for the Demons. And that would’ve put DePaul over the hump.

“They’ve been coming up with a lot of blocks lately,” Albright said. “Especially at DePaul there were some key, key blocks.” Albright definitely feels the versatility of the players adds so many dimensions to the club. When a coach can substitute two towers for two fresh towers every five minutes, it’s hard for the other team to get into a groove.

“We don’t ever lose anything when I substitute,” Albright agreed. “You better believe that freshness is a big difference.”

In that DePaul game, Conner and Mondek played 21 minutes, while Wingis and Lockett logged 19. On the flip side of that, DePaul’s big people, Stella Woodley and Beth Hassenmiller, stayed in the game for 38 and 31 minutes, respectively.

“Last year it was kind of a glamorous inside game, but this year it’s kind of a no-name inside game,” Bruno said. “But, those no-name kids—they’re not All-Americans—they do a good job banging inside and making our kids feel it.”

NIU has raced to a 6-0 North Star Conference record. And if the post players keep adding confidence as the season progresses, there is no telling what NIU is capable of come NCAA Tournament time in March.