Chicago weekend favors Huskies

By Carl Ackerman

It’s official. The NIU women’s basketball team has reached its first long-term goal of the season by clinching first place in the North Star Conference.

NIU pushed its record to 22-4 and 11-0 in the conference after beating up NSC foe Illinois-Chicago 116-58 in Sunday’s home matinee. UIC falls to 2-23 and 1-9.

The 1,397 fans were treated to another offensive outburst by the Huskies, who are still ranked No. 1 in the nation in scoring. All five NIU starters finished in double figures, and four of them had 20 or more points.

Senior Carol Owens led the crusade with 27 points and 14 rebounds. She also came within two points of her 2,000th career point.

“Carol had an exceptional night on the boards with 14 rebounds,” said NIU coach Jane Albright. “I think that was a really key factor in the first part of the game. Through the first half, we weren’t hitting shots like we usually do.”

Owens was followed by Weis’ season-high 21 points and 10 rebounds. She was 9-13 from the field and 2-2 at the line.

Another player who notched a season-high scoring performance was Denise Dove, who claimed 20 points including four three-pointers. She also became NIU’s all-time assist leader with 364. The previous mark was set by Jill Sawin (359) in 1981.

“Going into the year, I didn’t even know what the record was. I consider it a team record, because I just pass it to them (teammates) and they shoot it,” said Dove.”

Albright pointed out that another key factor in Dove’s performance was her ratio of assists to turnovers. She collected seven assists while allowing one turnover.

“Denise Dove did a really nice job as our point guard. She made really nice decisions and had a lot of assists,” said Albright.

Lisa Foss’ 20 points and Tammy Hinchee’s 13 also helped NIU bury the Flames.

NIU outrebounded its opponents 54-32, and all but two players had at least one rebound.

“We focused on rebounding early in the game. We were balanced as far as everybody getting rebounds,” said Owens.

NIU also dominated in turnovers and steals. NIU had 21 steals compared to UIC’s 10 and the Huskies had 16 turnovers compared to the Flames’ 32.

Although the Huskies dominated the entire game, they played the first half at an uncharacteristic slow tempo. In the second half, the style changed as Dove explained.

“We wanted to get our tempo up in the second half. We always want to create a fast tempo, because it’s the strength of our game,” said Dove.

One of UIC’s strengths was unable to play, which drastically hurt the Flames offense. Jacquese Gilbert, who averages 12.7 points per game for the Flames, has sat out much of the season because of an injury.

“I think not having Jacquese Gilbert hurts them,” said Albright. “She’s one of the nicest players in the conference. I hope she gets better. It would be like us playing without any one of our starters. I’m sorry she wasn’t able to be in the game.”

UIC had to rely on the offensive performances of Sheryl Lynch and Kim Pearce. Lynch scored 21 points in 37 minutes of action, and Pearce notched 17 points while sitting out for only one-half of a minute.