Huskies glad to be NCAA hosts

By Todd McMahon

Talk about playing in familiar territory.

The NIU women’s basketball team may be the most fortunate of the 48 teams in this year’s NCAA Tournament. On Wednesday, the Huskies will have their first opportunity to reap the fortunes.

Although they’re seeded No. 11 in the Mideast Regional, the 17-13 Huskies are one of only three lower seeds to be hosting a first-round game.

When NIU and Louisiana Tech meet at 7 p.m., it will mark the second time Chick Evans Field House has played host to the women’s tournament. Two years ago, the Huskies hosted Texas Tech and prevailed 84-63 in the opening round.

Should NIU (12-5 at home this season) defeat the Lady Techsters, the Huskies’ next destination would be West Lafayette, Ind., and a matchup with No. 3 seed Purdue on Sunday.

It was during the tournament two years ago that NIU traveled to Purdue in the second round and fell to the Boilermakers 86-81.

Coincidentally, a victory by the Huskies that year would have advanced them to the regional semifinals and a matchup with Louisiana Tech.

On the opposite side of the region’s bracket is defending national champion Tennessee, which dealt the Huskies a 78-61 setback two months ago at the fieldhouse.

The fieldhouse can now lay claim to having hosted some of the nation’s best in just one year. The Huskies pulled an upset win over Stephen F. Austin (No. 2 seed in the West) and played with Tennessee for most of the game.

Just as the Lady Vols have the most tradition for women’s basketball, Louisiana Tech is not too far behind. The Lady Techsters have been in every NCAA tourney since its inception in 1982.

In that first year, the Lady Techsters won the National Championship. Leon Barmore’s (281-45 record in 10 years) team also captured the crown in 1988.

“We’d like to be the giant-killer in the tournament,” NIU head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle said. “They’re one of the top four programs in the country. It’s the program and its tradition that we’re hosting, not the team. It’s a great tribute to our administration that we’re hosting this game.”

As of late Monday afternoon, NIU Athletic Ticket Manager Norm Jenkins said over 1,000 tickets had been sold for the game on Wednesday. “The sales have been very, very brisk,” he said.

General public tickets are $6, while NIU student tickets are $3 with a valid identification card.