Winning streak at 9 as NIU takes 24 ranking to WIU

By Carl Ackerman

With a nine-game winning streak on the line and a No. 24 ranking in the country, the NIU’s women’s basketball team heads west for a “scrappy” match against state rival Western Illinois at 7:30 tonight.

Although the 5-11, 2-6 Westerwinds have struggled this season, NIU coach Jane Albright expects a challenging game.

“Western is an extremely scrappy team,” said Albright. “It’s one of those teams on the schedule that you know are going to be the very best they can be. They’re an inside team. They run their offense well, and they have lost a lot of close games.”

NIU also runs its offense well. The Huskies come into the contest with the No. 1 offense in the nation (96 ppg).

“We need to get into our running game. They (WIU) are not used to scoring lots of points. They are more used to a slower-paced type of game,” said Albright, who feels her team’s control of the boards also will be a key factor.

The Huskies have had much success in rebounding throughout the season. Tammy Hinchee averages 11 boards per game along with her team leading mark of 21.8 points per game. Carol Owens is close behind with a 10.1 rpg average and 21.4 ppg.

WIU also has some scoring punch. The Westerwinds are led by junior forward Robin Hasemann, who is coasting on a 17.2 ppg average. She earned Street & Smith’s honorable mention All-America notice in addition to first team All-Gateway Conference notice. Sophomore center Gail Dlask has proved her offensive potential as well with a 15.4 ppg average.

Defensively, WIU junior guard Joe Hanig is ranked No. 9 in the NCAA assists category with 7.1 apg.

“We should be able to pound the ball inside on them. If they do try to pack everything in, then our guards should have a heyday,” said Albright.

About the only area of concern for the Huskies is their inconsistent defensive performances. NIU has ranged from giving up a mere 48 points in a 96-48 wallop over Cleveland State to 94 points in Monday’s 110-94 victory over Valparaiso. Albright labeled the CSU game as her team’s best defensive game, but said she was disappointed with NIU’s defense against Valparaiso.

“I’m concerned about it (the inconsistency),” said Albright. “For us to be a championship team, the defense has to be more constant than it is now. We have to be more focused.”

As for NIU’s current record of 14-2 overall and 4-0 in North Star Conference action, Albright said she is very happy, yet still unsatisfied.

“We want to get a lot better. We don’t want our best game to be against DePaul (an 81-75 win). We’re not satisfied at all. It’s kind of like we just had our salad, and we’re still hungry. I’m still very hungry, but I feel good about our identity,” said Albright.

NIU defeated WIU convincingly last year 81-50 at home. NIU leads the series 13-10 and has won the last six meetings between the Illinois teams.