Women prepare to battle Big Ten rival Northwestern

By Carl Ackerman

With the bitter taste of last weekend’s Fastbreak Fest loss still lingering inside Chick Evans Field House, the women’s basketball team must now turn to new horizons, but the challenge will not get much easier.

The Huskies (2-1) will duel with the undefeated Northwestern Wildcats (3-0) at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the fieldhouse. Also appearing will be the Phoenix Suns Gorilla to provide entertainment for the spectators.

This will be the fourth consecutive undefeated opponent NIU has faced this season.

“If we’re going to win, we’re going to have to outrebound our opponents, because the rebound starts our fastbreak,” said Huskie head coach Jane Albright. “The rebound starts our momentum. It means we’re in charge of the game.”

Rebounds proved to be the pivotal factor in Sunday’s 87-84 overtime loss to South Carolina. NIU was outrebounded 54-38 in the battle.

“We can use this (loss) to our advantage or our disadvantage,” said Albright.

When the Huskies won the same tournament last year, the team was riding high as it arrived at Northwestern, only to be put back into reality with an 83-78 loss. Albright feels this year will be not be the same.

“This year I think the circumstances are different. We have a lot higher hopes than we did last year. I feel like we have got a lot to prove to ourselves. We’re extremely disappointed in the way we didn’t come through (Sunday),” said Albright.

Junior center Mya Whitmore leads the Wildcats in scoring with 17 points per game and 7 rebounds per game. Forward Michele Savage is averaging 14.3 ppg and has notched 20 rebounds. Last year’s main threat to NIU was Kelly Cole, who is averaging 10.7 ppg this season.

“Don Perrilli (NU coach) has done a great job of getting Chicago talent,” said Albright. “They’re not going to give us any breaks. I think they (NU) are a better team this year than last year. They are going to be an extremely tough opponent. I hope we’re hungry. I’m very disappointed in us. I hope what they say is true, that sports doesn’t build character, it reveals character.

“They’re a really versatile team and they get the ball to their shooters really well,” said Albright, who feels the Huskies must keep the Wildcats off of their offensive game.

NIU is led in scoring by junior guard Lisa Foss with 22 points. Carol Owens is close behind with a 21-point average along with 33 rebounds. She needs only seven more points to claim her 1,500 career point. Six-foot-two forward Tammy Hinchee (20.7 ppg) leads the team in rebounds with 38.

Other key players include senior guard Kris Weis (11.7 ppg) and junior guard Denise Dove (25 assists and 10 steals), who needs just three more assists to hit No. 250.

“All of them need to come back (from Sunday’s loss). They need to prove that we are winners,” said Albright.