Flames upset #21 NIU


Saturday night, two teams went where they have never been before under their current regimes.

What happened at Illinois-Chicago’s Physical Education Building certainly had the qualifications needed for an episode of “The Twilight Zone” as UIC’s women’s basketball team stunned No. 21 NIU 81-76.

The crowd of 621 witnessed the Huskies’ (17-5, 11-1) first-ever defeat in the Mid-Continent Conference, while the Flames (13-9, 7-6) clinched at least their first .500 regular-season mark under third-year coach Eileen McMahon.

Even more staggering is the upset victory marks the first time in 13 years UIC has been on the winning side against NIU. Ever since the Flames defeated the Huskies 62-54 at the beginning of the 1979-80 season, NIU had won the last 15 meetings, including a 79-53 decision three weeks ago.

Consequently, NIU boss Jane Albright-Dieterle suffered her first loss to UIC, while McMahon and her two senior leaders, Angela Gilbert and Tasia Georganas, notched their initial win against the Huskies.

“This is a big, big win for our program,” an ecstatic McMahon commented. “Look at Tasia and Angie and what they had to go through. Their freshman year they get beat by Northern two or three times … their sophomore year wasn’t much better.”

“So, their image of Northern is like a big monster and for them to accomplish this, it’s a great thing.”

As seniors normally do, Gilbert and Georganas rallied UIC from a 42-33 halftime deficit to record its second straight Mid-Con upset. Last Wednesday, Gilbert scored 32 points as the Flames defeated Valparaiso 91-81.

Against the Huskies, Gilbert again led the charge with 24 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out with 0:21 left.

Georganas, meanwhile, contributed 13 points, six rebounds and eight assists. She also received an added boost in the backcourt from freshman Joanne McCarthy (14 points) and sophomore Penny Armstrong (12 points).

NIU was led by Debbie Teske and Dianna Wingis, who each scored 18 points. Cindy Conner followed with 17, while E.C. Hill struggled to a 12-point night (5-of-15 shooting, five fouls.)

“It was a situation where (UIC) played extremely well and proved they wanted the game very, very badly,” a dejected Albright-Dieterle said.

“It’s a very disappointing loss, definitely the most disappointing loss I’ve ever been associated with because of how hard they (NIU) worked to position themselves at this point of the season,” she added.

Despite having the four players in double figures and forcing UIC into 25 turnovers, the Huskies were unable to overcome the heart displayed by the Flames in their second-half surge.

Down 61-52 with 12:22 remaining, UIC went on 20-10 run over the next six and a half minutes to not only take the lead but keep it for good.

The Flames built their lead to as many as six in the final two minutes before two Teske free throws cut it to 80-76 with 21 seconds left.

After Georganas missed the front end of a one-and-one, a Teske miss from 10 feet and a turnover on an inbounds pass cost NIU in its last-ditch comeback effort.