Blue Demons, Huskies return to Alumni Hall

By Carl Ackerman

When two talented teams known for their intense rivalry clash, one can expect plenty of emotions and physical excitement.

NIU’s womens basketball team will face this challenge in tonight’s 7 p.m. road game against DePaul University at Alumni Hall in Chicago.

The Huskies are looking to even the score with DePaul after last season’s hard-fought 76-61 loss in the North Star Conference title game which ended in player skirmishes and the dismissal of all NIU fans from the premises.

Last season, NIU lost two of three games to the Blue Demons including an 81-75 loss at DePaul. NIU’s victory came in the teams’ first matchup, an 86-82 overtime win, which also resulted in numerous scuffles. The Blue Demons leads the overall series 10-1.

“We’re going to keep all the positive elements of a great rivalry, and get rid of all the negative things. We’re going to have a new attitude,” said Huskie coach Jane Albright.

Blue Demon coach Doug Bruno expects the game to carry on its competitive atmosphere as well.

“I expect a classic college confrontation. I admire the style with which NIU plays. We actually play a similar style,” said Bruno.

One potent problem the Blue Demons face is the loss of last year’s leading scorer Diana Vines, who averaged 24.4 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and paced DU to a first-place 12-2 mark in the conference.

“Our team can’t rely on just one player anymore,” said Bruno, whose team is led in scoring by Beth Hasenmiller (15 ppg, 7.8 rpg). She is followed by Gail Ash (12.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and Melanee Erhardt with 12 ppg.

“Our key is our togetherness. I also think we’re emerging as a great defensive team,” added Bruno.

It will take a tough defensive team to stop the Huskie scoring attack which ranks No. 1 in the nation. Carol Owens leads the pack with 21.4 ppg and averages 10.6 rpg. She is followed by Tammy Hinchee (20.9 ppg and 10.9 rpg) and Lisa Foss (20.3 ppg). Kris Weis is shooting 93 percent from the line, and Denise Dove has 80 assists.

However, Albright feels tonight’s game will not be as high scoring as usual. Albright stressed that her Huskies must take care of the ball and keep DePaul off the offensive board to be successful.

“Pressure is their strength. We plan on breaking that pressure down,” said Albright.

Whether it’s NIU or DePaul that comes away with a win, Bruno feels both teams deserve a lot of credit.

“Regardless of what happens, it’s time for people throughout the country to realize DePaul and NIU deserve to be in the NCAA tournament,” said Bruno.

NIU comes into the game at 12-2 overall with a 2-0 conference mark compared to DU’s 7-4 ledger and 1-0 record in conference. DU edged University of Illinois-Chicago 77-64 on Jan. 10 for its sole conference win.

The game at Alumni Hall is said to be close to a sellout, which will set the new state record for number of spectators at a Division I women’s contest. Last year, the game drew more than 3,000 fans.