Albright’s crew to battle tough schedule

By Dan Moran

NIU sports fans remember all too well what happened the last time a Huskie team dove headfirst into the Big Time.

Don’t look now, but the women’s basketball team is challenging the bullies. However, head coach Jane Albright said at Wednesday’s Media Day she expects her squad to land on its feet.

“You can look at the schedule and see a lot of big names,” said Albright, pointing first to a home opener with Ohio State. “We put together this schedule. You’ll see a lot of All-Americans on the court with us. We didn’t want to just go out and get anybody we could get. I think in order to be the best you have to play the best.”

The Huskies, after posting an 11-16 record last season, open the year at Butler Nov. 28. After Ohio State, the big names include Iowa, North Carolina-Charlotte, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Missouri and San Diego State before NIU embarks on its first North Star Conference schedule.

To meet the challange, the Huskies will return four players of proven ability, including last year’s leading scorer, Lisa Foss (17.9 points per game), leading rebounder Tammy Hinchee (an even 10 boards per game) and sparkplug forward Gena Stubbs (tied with Hinchee at 14.6 ppg).

And, after going down with an injured knee 30 seconds into the 1986-87 season, Carol Owens will return to the NIU lineup.

“She’s about 70 percent of what she can do,” Albright said of Owens, who averaged 13.4 ppg and 8.1 rebounds per game in 1985-86. “I can guarantee by Nov. 28 she’ll be 95 percent.”

Owens, who agreed with Albright’s assessment of her rehabilitation, said returning to play a hefty schedule does not bother her.

“We can match up with any team in the North Star Conference,” Owens said. “I’m not saying we can go in and kill everybody we play, but we can win 20 games.”

inchee said the return of Owens will have a positive effect on the Huskie offense because “they’re going to have to sag off of one of us. That’s going to open it up for one of us to score.”

Actually, the Huskie offense was not a problem last year, as the team scored 74.6 ppg. However, the opposition scored 77.6 ppg. With this in mind, Albright said “obviously, we’ll be working a lot on defense the first couple of (practice) weeks.

“We’ll press more. We’d like to be a full-court team. Another thing we’ll work on is getting the ball underneath to our post players. Hopefully, we’ll draw more fouls that way.”

If the Huskies can keep the opposition from running away, the scoring will come. This season, NCAA women’s games will feature the three-point shot, something that was experimented with last year. Foss, known for her deadly outside shooting, expects to hit her share of three-pointers if they are set up well.

“If I just stood out there and put it up, I can hit it,” said Foss, who estimated she can sink an average of eight of 10 around the world. “But if you have someone guarding you it becomes a tough shot.”

All in all, the Huskies do not seem to be flinching at the prospect of taking on the tough schedule.

“I’m not going to be stupid and stand up here saying we’re going to blow these teams out,” Albright said. “If we click, we can beat any team on that schedule. But be patient with us early.”