Huskies pull streak to six

By Todd McMahon

Tuesday night, big, bad DePaul tried with all its might to intimidate underdog NIU.

When Rita Hale and Blue Demons’ boss Doug Bruno pulled the last straw of their physical tactics midway through the second half, it was a knowledgeable group of Huskies that took the initiative of playing basketball the way it was meant to be played.

When all was said and done after NIU’s 73-69 knockout of nationally-ranked DePaul, there was no question as to who was intimidated at Chick Evans Field House.

“They’re an aggressive team,” said NIU head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle of DePaul. “It’s not a bad aggressive. That’s just their style.”

“Our crowd helped us. You start hearing them chant, ‘NIU, NIU,’ and then E.C. (Hill) remembers why she came to NIU.

“We were among the people who love us the most,” Albright-Dieterle added.

“And I think our team had a lot of character. They really understand what this rivalry is about.”

The altercation between Hale and NIU’s Hill with 10:57 showing on the fieldhouse scoreboard in half No. 2 certainly added a new chapter to the storied battles the two teams have waged the last five years.

“We talked at halftime about wanting bragging rights for the state,” Albright-Dieterle said. “We can’t say we’re wanting national recognition when we can’t even win in our own state.

“It’s a healthy bragging,” Albright-Dieterle continued. “If you came to this game and you had never seen a women’s basketball game before, hopefully you’d go see another women’s team play. … This is exciting. It’s why you play.”

The boisterous crowd of 3,006 (sixth-largest in NIU women’s basketball history) definitely saw one of the year’s better games.

After a dismal first half in which NIU trailed 43-32, shot just 37 percent and committed 13 turnovers, the Huskies turned up their defense and the offense soon followed.

The Blue Demons were repeatedly scoring uncontested layups in the opening 20 minutes but a switch at the half caused the Huskies’ interior defense to take a turn for the better.

“I told Dianna at halftime, ‘we will not win this game without you just playing hard. You don’t have to score 30 points but you have to play hard,'” Albright-Dieterle said.

Albright-Dieterle will be counting on more of the same production she received from her ‘big’ ladies when the Huskies begin a crucial three-game road trip, beginning tonight at Cleveland State.