Huskies on a hot streak heading for Valparaiso

By Todd McMahon

What a difference a week can make.

Just seven days ago, the NIU women’s basketball team was reeling backwards after having lost three of its last four games, with its only victory coming in overtime.

NIU head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle’s crew, however, has bounced back with a vengeance. Last Tuesday, the Huskies knocked off Wisconsin-Milwaukee 83-76, and on Saturday, they took out their frustrations with a 103-54 pasting of Wright State.

Now, NIU looks to keep the engines revving as it heads to Valparaiso tonight for a 7 p.m. track meet, er, basketball game against the Crusaders.

And after Saturday’s stellar performance, which included a school record 37 steals, Albright-Dieterle hopes there is more of the same to come for her team.

“I hope they’re not satisfied,” Albright-Dieterle said. “This is what it’s supposed to be like. We’re trying to get ready for the tournament.

“Hopefully, this is a team you’ll see down the stretch. This is when you want to be coming up with games like (Saturday’s). I saw a real tenacious attitude about this team.”

Tenacity was evident the last time NIU and Valparaiso hooked up. After leading 46-43 at halftime on Jan. 21, the Huskies forced 18 Crusader turnovers and shot .564 from the floor in the final 20 minutes to win 102-84.

Since then, Valparaiso hasn’t made any serious threats in contending for the North Star Conference regular-season championship.

The Crusaders, who have a 14-8 overall record, stand at 4-4 in the conference after losing 73-70 on the road to league leader Wisconsin-Green Bay Saturday. Wright State and Cleveland State are right on Valparaiso’s heels in the fight for third place.

Meanwhile, NIU (13-9, 7-2) has all but sealed up second place and the second seed in the league tourney coming up in two weeks at Chick Evans Field House.

“It’s not a must game for us to get a win,” Albright-Dieterle said about tonight’s contest. “It’s more important for us to go in and just keep playing well.”

The goal for the Huskies is to have success these last two weeks of the regular season and carry it over to the three days (March 5-7) at the field house. And not once have they doubted themselves, including last week.

“The one thing we tried not to do was panic,” Albright-Dieterle said. “When everybody around us was kind of thinking, ‘oh no, what’s happening (to them),’ we tried to stick with our same system. We really haven’t changed anything.”