Loyola will be Huskies’ first test

By Matt Hopkinson

For the most part, there isn’t that much stock in results from exhibition games. This will have to be the case for NIU women’s basketball as well.

The Huskies will kick off their 2011-2012 regular season with a match-up against Loyola.

NIU head coach Kathi Bennett sees this year’s schedule as an advantage in comparison to last season’s.

“Without a doubt, this season schedule is much more friendly,” Bennett said. “It will help us rest- wise, school-wise, definitely in favor of this year’s schedule.”

NIU hopes to make improvements from the quality of its play in its lone exhibition game against Indiana Wesleyan, but the team carries the same mindset into this season opener.

“We want to go out there and make our identity known, which is defense,” said NIU sophomore guard Danielle Pulliam.

Last season, NIU defeated Loyola 70-59, but that doesn’t hold any significance for this game.

“It doesn’t matter at all,” Pulliam said. “I don’t know how many returning players they have from last season, but anything can happen, so we have to be ready.”

The Huskies’ main goal will be to increase their level of teamwork as they had only seven assists in their exhibition game. NIU also had a rebounding edge of 43-27, including a 16-0 lead in offensive rebounds.

The problem with that, however, is NIU only managed eight second chance points.

“The rebounding total is a little misleading because we missed a lot of lay-ups and bunnies,” Bennett said.

With some adjustments on this year’s roster, Pulliam isn’t worried about the Huskies eventually gelling together.

“I don’t think it will be a slow process,” Pulliam said. “We are all very close off the court, and I think that will transfer onto the court. I think we’ll be motivated because we all have the same common goal. It’s still early in the year, but I think we will gel all together.”