Huskies have tough void to fill

By Krystal Megan

The women’s basketball team is left with a huge void to fill now that sophomore guard Janae Poisson is out for the season with a torn ACL.

The Huskies are going to have to search for ways for their bench to produce in Poisson’s absence, as the sophomore averaged 13 points per game, accounting for 57 percent of the team’s total bench points in the four games she played this season.

“We are going to be without her for the rest of the year,” Head Coach Lisa Carlsen said. “She did tear her ACL, so we are going to have to find a way for our bench to be productive because obviously she was a huge spark for us.”

The sophomore was expected to be an integral part of the Huskies this season after coming off a year where she was named to the Mid-American Conference’s All-Freshman team, averaging 8.4 points on nearly 43 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Senior forward Kelly Smith said Poisson is a big part of the team, and she brings a ton of scoring and energy that was a big boost to her teammates. Smith also said she has no doubt Poisson will bounce back and come back stronger.

“She is just such a baller and a good basketball player and knows how to score,” Smith said. “I’m hopeful for her, and it definitely sucks for our team this year.”

The guard’s ability to shoot the ball, especially on 3-pointers, was key to a Huskie team, whose strengths are on the offensive side of the ball.

The team has the most depth it’s had under Carlsen, so the coach will have players to turn to who have the ability to step up  the question is if they will. Carlsen has been giving the team’s three freshmen playing time off the bench, and those three will need to continue to improve their game if the Huskies have a shot at receiving much needed production from their second unit.

It’s unfair to say any of these players can single-handedly give the production Poisson gave, but whether individually or as a collective, they’re the Huskies’ best shot off the bench in Poisson’s absence.

1. Freshman guard Errin Hodges

All of the Huskies’ freshmen have the ability to shoot the basketball, but Hodges excels in the open court. Hodges’ breakaway speed drives her ability to get to the rim, and that’s where she’s at her best. Poisson also had the ability to get to the rim when needed, but it’s safe to say Hodges is one of the best on the team at getting to the basket. Hodges scored 10 points in the team’s exhibition game against Benedictine University Nov. 4 but has only scored 12 points total since then. Don’t expect the freshman to shoot the ball as efficiently as Poisson, but her speed at the guard position can bring a different element to the team.

2. Freshman guard Gabby Nikitinaite

Out of the non-starting guards on the team, Nikitinaite is the one who can come closest to providing the shooting Poisson provided. Nikitinaite’s experience playing in the U.K. can only help the Huskies, especially with shooting. The freshman has the talent to be a special player, but whether she makes the jump this year is up in the air. She had a solid game against the University of Iowa, scoring 11 points in 19 minutes off the bench while shooting 43 percent on 3-pointers. In the four games since, she’s played a total of 33 minutes and scored eight points. It’s important to remember the guard is not only adjusting to college but to another country as well. Nikitinaite’s playing style is the most similar to Poisson’s of these three players.

3. Freshman forward Riley Blackwell

Blackwell may not play the same position as Poisson, but the freshman forward can score the basketball. Blackwell’s been the most consistent of her classmates so far, playing an average of 11.29 minutes per game and averaging 4.14 points per game.

She’s a post player who has the ability to spread the floor with her outside shooting and quick release. Blackwell shot 41 percent from the field in her senior year of high school, including 34 percent on triples. The forward has been serviceable off the bench so far, and as Blackwell continues to get more comfortable, she can become a pivotal piece off the bench for the Huskies this season.

It’s hard to say if any of these players will be able to replace what Poisson gave. They’re freshmen, and it’s going to take time for them to get rid of the freshman jitters and get comfortable playing the college game. Though, if the Huskies’ bench is going to receive anything close to the production it had with Poisson, these three players will have to step up — probably sooner than expected.