Women’s basketball looks to bounce back against Zips

By Jimmy Johnson

Coming off its near upset over Bowling Green, which currently possesses the best overall record of the MAC competitors, the NIU women’s basketball team will look to bounce back against Akron.

The Huskies (9-12 overall, 3-6 MAC) will host the Zips (9-12, 2-7) at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. Both NIU and Akron are currently in next-to-last place in their respective divisions.

“We’re learning,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett. “I told them we’re like a door to door salesman; we got to keep knocking. We’re really close.”

NIU’s 67-64 nail-biter loss was taken as a positive by Bennett, who applauded her players for grinding it out despite not pulling through with the victory. The first-year head coach feels that these close-knit game situations are a valuable learning tool for her players to gain something in the long run.

“I feel like we’re gaining that experience,” Bennett said. “I think that is really going to help us down the stretch and into the conference tournament.”

Huskies’ point guard Marke Freeman shared those sentiments with her head coach, feeling that things are starting to come together.

“I think we’re peaking at the perfect time,” Freeman said. “Not many teams can play well the entire year.”

However, that didn’t neglect Freeman to say that NIU will need to find a way to accelerate its overall game, as the MAC conference tournament is less than a month away.

Freeman understands that NIU is coming to a key point in the season. With the MAC Tournament coming up, she realizes the Huskies need to practice and play well for 40 minutes.

“We definitely need to be able to close out ball games, and that’s something we’re going to learn,” Freeman said.

Bennett stated that the Huskies are equipped with a productive bench, but they’ve still found a way to be competitive in every game since their 79-63 loss to Eastern Michigan last month.

“We have competed, extremely hard,” Bennett said. “We don’t have great depth, and we’re doing it with a little [rotation] and I am really proud of them in the effort.”

With the concerns of the “Snowpocalypse” behind DeKalb, more fans might make the venture to come out and root on NIU Saturday. But for Freeman, whether it’s a packed or empty house, she knows that the way they prepare themselves and play on the court won’t change at all.

“We come in there, and we play for each other,” Freeman said. “We knew with the circumstances there wouldn’t be many fans…but you still got to throw on that jersey and the same things are expected.”

If the Huskies come out on top Saturday, the victory will tie their 2009-10 overall and conference totals of 10 and four, with six games left to further improve on their 2010-11 season record.