Huskies get defensive over MAC play

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Northern Star File Photo- Jenna Thorp

By Matt Hopkinson

Coming off a tooth and nail overtime loss to Western Michigan, NIU women’s basketball will now begin MAC tournament play.

Ironically enough, they will be squaring off against, none other than Western Michigan.

Only five games ago, the Huskies seemed able to make a strong push into tournament play, riding high off a double digit victory against the skilled Miami (Ohio) RedHawks.

Those hopes have been grounded. The team has ridden a four-game losing streak as their overall offensive game has struggled, and their defense has been uncharacterstically generous.

With the loss of freshman forward Claire Jakubicek, the offensive firepower has been shooting poorly.

While Jakubicek was in, she and senior forward Kim Davis developed an interesting synergy, providing multiple offensive options with high-low action and consistent scoring from both players.

Without Jakubicek, NIU has gotten smaller, more reliant on team scoring and has not been as effective.

This put the Huskies in a situation where they have to play perfect defense every night, usually against taller teams.

NIU coach Kathi Bennett has always emphasized defense more, but the ball still has to go in the basket more times than the other team.

The necessity of playing perfect defense can wear down a team and possibly reflect on the other end.

With as many teams in the MAC that have shown the ability to light up the scoreboard, NIU is in a real bind.

The defensive effort will have to remain the emphasis, but the scoring will need to increase if it doesn’t want to get bounced out in the first round.

There is a viable scoring option on the bench in junior Brittany Callahan, who has the ability to pour it in from the three point line, but may lack on court experience this season.

In addition to Callahan, junior Satavia Taylor provided a huge spark in the last game, and if she can replace Jakubicek’s scoring, there is some possibility of consistency with the offense.

Although the odds are definitely stacked against the Huskies heading into MAC play, they have shown the ability to lock down high powered offensive teams.

Their tournament starts with a grudge match, and that could provide all the motivation necessary to get by the first round.