Chi-town Flames pose little challenge to 15-3 women

By Carl Ackerman

If history repeats itself, NIU’s women’s basketball team can expect some strong success in the near future.

Case and point: prior to Monday’s 87-83 loss to Vanderbilt, the 15-3, 4-0 Huskies lost only two games. The first was an 87-84 overtime loss to South Carolina. NIU then won three straight, including a 99-74 pounding over 19th-ranked Northwestern.

Loss No. 2 was a 90-65 setback by Stephen F. Austin. NIU followed that with a ten-game winning streak and set many records.

So, will NIU respond with another surge of success to compliment it’s earlier feats of the season?

The answer will begin with tonight’s 7:30 road match-up against University of Illinois-Chicago (1-14, 0-3).

“I would hope that it (a successful streak) would be the case,” said NIU coach Jane Albright. “It’s got to be the case. I don’t think we have an option. We don’t have that many more chances to play this game. We’ve got at least 10 games left, but after that you don’t know.”

The loss to 30th-ranked Vanderbilt produced some strong emotions among the women’s team, but Albright still has plenty of faith in her squad.

“It was a real emotional loss,” said Albright. “It’s always hard to put your hearts on the line, and go after something as hard as we did and come up short. We played with a really established program (VU) for 40 minutes, and it never went more than five points either way. I still have lots of confidence in us.

“We haven’t had a lot of adversity. Things have been coming pretty easy for us. Now is going to be a critical time for us,” added Albright.

Although the Flames have had a disappointing season, Albright feels UIC’s record is not at all reflective of the team’s ability.

“They have got a couple of nice athletes. Jacquese Gilbert is one of the nicest players in the conference. Then again, you have got all the Chicago rivalries. They (UIC) concern me,” said Albright.

Gilbert leads the Flames with 13.3 points per game, followed by Sheryl Lynch’s 11.3 ppg. Michelle Crosby leads UIC in rebounds with 5.7 rpg.

NIU plans to up its pressure defense, and control the boards. The Huskies failed to do this against VU, and in Albright’s opinion it cost NIU the game.

One Huskie Albright is concerned about is Tammy Hinchee (21 ppg). The six-foot-two senior forward is suffering from patella tendinitis in her knee, caused by overuse associated with jumping and pounding.

“I’m concerned about her knee. I think that’s going to be a critical thing for our team to respond to. It’s bothering her a lot,” said Albright.

NIU won both games last season (97-85, 96-66) and leads the series 8-6.