Hinchee’s 35 tally nets NIU triumph

By Steve Dennis and Carl Ackerman

CHICAGO—While the NIU women’s basketball team had visions of Blue Demons dancing in their heads all during the off-season, a new state of Illinois collegiate record 4,294 fans and a DePaul team left Alumni Hall Thursday night with visions of Tammy Hinchee and a scoreboard showing NIU 81—DePaul 75.

Six-foot-two senior Tammy Hinchee netted 35 points and ripped down 11 rebounds, before fouling out with 1:07 left as her stellar performance led the Huskies to their third North Star Conference victory in as many games. NIU (13-2) had been waiting for revenge against DePaul since March when the Blue Demons upended the Huskies 76-61 in the title game of the NSC Tournament.

“I haven’t been in a lockerroom with more happy players in six years of coaching,” NIU coach Jane Albright said. “Right now, we’re sky high.”

NIU started flying at the start of the second half. The Huskies, leading by a point at the end of the first (37-36), scored the first bucket of the second increasing their lead to three. DePaul countered with a basket of its own, then the Huskie defense kicked in. NIU held the Blue Demons scoreless for 4 minutes, while the Huskies rattled off 11 unanswered points to mark their biggest lead of the game, 50-38.

The NIU seniors provided all of the offense during that second-half spurt. Hinchee led the attack with 6 of the 11 points. Carol Owens chipped in 3 points and Kris Weis added a bucket. Both Owens and Weis finished with 12 points apiece and Weis extended her free-throw shooting streak to 26 straight as she hit 4-of-4 from the line.

“This was the last time we (the seniors) were playing here,” Hinchee said, “so it really got us up for the game.”

Something also got Toby Meeks up for the game. The junior guard who was averaging 3.3 points per game, came up with 13 points and scored the last five points from the charity line down the stretch to cap the Huskie victory.

“The game wasn’t out of reach until she (Meeks) hit those free throws at the end,” Albright said. “That’s the best I’ve ever seen her—Toby showed lots of confidence.”

In that second-half, NIU shot 54 percent compared to its 30-percent effort in the first. Albright credited the Blue Demon defense who used a full-court press much of the game.

“We couldn’t run or execute in the first part of the game,” Albright said. “(DePaul) has the best defensive club we’ve ever played against.”

DePaul coach Doug Bruno saw the difference in the game in his clubs 36-percent field goal shooting for the game and NIU’s 34- of-40 from the free-throw line.

“We can’t expect to win a basketball game missing so many lay-ups as we did and we can’t expect to win putting the other team on the free-throw line as often as we did,” Bruno said. “Northern Illinois is a very good and competent basketball team.”

Owens summed up her team’s thoughts on the game. “It’s fun to play DePaul,” Owens said. “And it’s even greater to win.”