UIC’s woes put title on the line

By Carl Ackerman

This Sunday the NIU women’s basketball team can achieve something it has never done in its entire existence.

It has a chance to clinch its first North Star Conference regular-season title with a win over the visiting Illinois-Chicago Flames at 2 p.m.

The 21-4 Huskies can bump their conference record to 11-0 and stretch their home winning streak to nine games. The Flames are 2-21, 1-7 this year.

NIU handily beat UIC 83-50 in the season’s first meeting (Jan. 31). However, UIC’s slow tempo style of play stalled the Huskies in the game’s first few minutes.

“They will probably try to do that to us again,” said NIU coach Jane Albright. “Right now we’re playing the best ball we have played all year, and we’re probably better than we were a month ago. I anticipate us being able to control the tempo.”

UIC coach Francine St. Clair admits her Flames have their work cut out for them against the 22nd-ranked Huskies, who have the No. 1 offensive team in the nation.

“We must be competitive on the boards. We can’t let them (NIU) get three or four shots at the basket. Northern can hit you inside and outside, and their bench is good too. We’re going to have to take advantage of all our opportunities,” said St. Clair.

In order to cash in on its opportunities, the Flames will look to their top scorer Jacquese Gilbert. She is averaging 12.7 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.

“Jacquese Gilbert didn’t play last time we faced UIC,” said Albright. “She’s really a nice player, and she’s done an excellent job for her team.”

“The major thing for us is that we have to put points on the board,” said St. Clair. “We need at least 80-85 points to be competitive with Northern. If we can put consistency on both ends of the floor, then it will be a good game.”

Consistency, however, has been NIU’s trademark this season, especially in the offensive department.

Owens is on top in scoring with a 21.6 ppg average, but very close behind is Tammy Hinchee’s 20.2 ppg and Lisa Foss’ 19.9 averages.

Defensively, Denise Dove has tallied 135 assists this season and is three shy of NIU’s all-time assist leader Jill Sawin’s 359 career mark (1979-82).

“She’s an exceptional team leader. She has the ability to make other people around her better. That’s the definition of a great point guard. Her leadership helps us—she’s a confident player and very heady,” said Albright.

Sunday’s game will also feature NIU’s women’s basketball Senior Recognition Day. Three NIU players—Hinchee, Owens and Kris Weis plus manager Herman Lee will be recognized for their Huskie playing accomplishments.