NIU begins warm-up for postseason play


Feel the cold breeze that’s been hitting the NIU women’s basketball team’s bench this year.

Other than the coaches, trainers and redshirts who for the most part remain attached to their seats during a game, there’s not much warming taking place with the players’ chairs.


Coach Jane Albright-Dieterle has been able to turn to all of her players at will during the course of a game, and it is the bench that may have a great impact on how far the Huskies advance in postseason play this month.

Having confidence in her subs has allowed Albright-Dieterle to give rest to the starters while at the same time maintain the good thing the top five began.

A perfect example has been the last two games. When the Huskies were upset at UIC a week and a half ago, they were missing Chelsea Schwankl with a bad back and the rest of the team was battling the sick bug.

But when Schwankl and her mates recovered from their ailments for the Cleveland State game last Thursday, the bench came through in a big way.

For one, Schwankl spelled E.C. Hill just enough that Hill was able to turn in one of her better performances—24 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four steals. Schwankl, herself, tied her career high of 10 points.

Although Tiana Burkholder and Cindy Conner had to go longer than usual in the 88-77 victory due to Dianna Wingis sitting out with a sprained ankle, freshman Charmonique Stallworth waltzed in off the bench to contribute eight points and 10


What happened two days ago lends even more support to the bench theory. In a relatively tight game with Youngstown State, no Huskie went more than 30 minutes and all 13 players saw action, including Wingis and Julie Gainer.

Other than Leslie Pottinger’s 18 points and 12 rebounds, the numbers may have not stuck out for Albright-Dieterle’s ‘role’ crew in the 105-92 win, but they did give the starters plenty of breathers and their stats reflected that.

Conner paced NIU with 24 points while Hill dropped in 21 and Burkholder netted a career-high 15.

With their next game not until Thursday, the Huskies expect to have both starters and bench at full strength when Wingis’ ankle heals. And if the minutes are spread, NIU is the odds-on favorite to win the Mid-Continent Conference Tournament and garner a first-round home game in the NCAA tourney.

Albright-Dieterle believes that, her players believe that and even Youngstown State coach Ed DiGregorio believes that.

“If you play (NIU’s starting) five against (Wisconsin-Green Bay’s) five and you only allow them to play 40 minutes, it would be a helluva game,” DiGregorio said. “But where (NIU) has got Wisconsin is (the Huskies) come off the bench with people and Wisconsin can’t come off the bench with people like (NIU) can.”

Expect a warm front to hit Green Bay, Wis., next week.