Round II tonight at Chick Evans

By Carl Ackerman

During the entire 1989-90 season, the NIU women’s basketball team has had one major goal on its mind – make it to the NCAA tournament.

To complete this mission, the Huskies must successfully battle one of their most challenging North Star Conference foes—the DePaul Blue Demons.

NIU will put its 19-4 overall and 8-0 NSC records on the line in tonight’s 7:00 contest when it hosts DePaul, 13-7, 5-1.

The 23rd-ranked Huskies hope to bring home a record attendance in the game and possibly fill Chick Evans Field House to its capacity of 6,068. Whether that goal is reached or not, NIU expects a larger than usual crowd which could affect the game’s outcome.

“Certainly, the crowd will help us. We hope it’s the best game that we ever played. I’m sure it will be pretty emotional at first, but we would like to take the emotion out of the game,” said NIU coach Jane Albright.

The last time these two rivals clashed was on Jan. 18 when NIU journeyed to DU’s Alumni Hall. The Huskies pulled out a hard-fought 81-75 victory thanks in part to Tammy Hinchee’s 35 points and 11 rebounds. The 4,294 fans that attended the game set an Illinois women’s collegiate attendance record.

The game was a constant emotional and physical battle for both teams. The score was relatively close throughout the game, and Albright expects a similar but improved type of game.

“I think we’re better than last time we played DePaul, but I’m sure they have improved too. It’s going to be a war. Both teams will be at their best. Hopefully, we’ll have an advantage by playing on the home court,” said Albright.

The Blue Demons are bound to have some highly emotional thoughts of revenge lurking in their minds as they enter tonight’s game. But how pivotal will this be?

“They feel like they need to win to make it to the NCAA tournament,” said Albright. “Emotion goes a long way, but I can’t imagine DePaul having the psychological edge.”

If the Huskies have the edge in anything, it is certainly their offense which sits atop the nation’s best at 93 points per game.

DePaul forced NIU to make some adjustments to its offense in this season’s first match, especially in the first few minutes when DePaul had its best control.

“Their transition defense killed us last time. We’re going to have to outrebound them. Every time we play them, it’s like a chess match (with all the adjustments). They haven’t seen our new offense,” said Albright.

Although the Blue Demons have lost seven games, five have been to top 25 teams including No. 1-ranked Louisiana Tech. The Blue Demons are led in scoring by Beth Hasenmiller’s 16.8 points per game average. She is followed by Gail Ash’s 13.2 ppg and team-high 8.8 rebounds per game. Melanee Ehrhart (10.4 ppg), Veronica Ross (7.6 ppg) and Stella Woodley (7 ppg) finish out the DU starting five.

NIU is led in scoring by senior Carol Owens’ 21 ppg (9.3 rpg). Close behind is Hinchee with 20 ppg and a team-leading 10.5 rpg. Lisa Foss is closing in on the two of them with 19.7 ppg average. Kris Weis is also in double figures with an 11.3 average, and Denise Dove (8.3 ppg) is holding onto a team-high 124 assists.

Dove, who needs just 14 assists to move into the No. 1 spot for NIU women, could move past current recordholder Jill Sawin’s (1979-81) 359 mark sometime during NIU’s next three home games. The assist record will be the third women’s basketball career mark to be broken this season.