Coaches across the nation like to call it the ‘stretch run’—those last two weeks of the season for their teams to tune it up before the madness of March comes roaring in.
For Jane Albright-Dieterle and her NIU women’s basketball team, this year’s regular-season hurrah should provide some clues as to what type of team they can expect to be in the postseason.
Beginning Saturday with a clash versus Wright State at Chick Evans Field House, the Huskies will play six games in 13 days. Four of those will be in the friendly confines of the field house.
Following the final regular season contest against North Star Conference leader Wisconsin-Green Bay on Feb. 27, NIU will have the luxury of hosting the NSC tournament March 5-7.
But after an upset defeat (75-72) to Akron last Saturday, the second-place Huskies (12-9, 6-2) may have to win three games in the tourney to grab the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Wisconsin-Green Bay stands at a perfect 8-0 in the league, and barring any surprises, the Phoenix will have the first-round by.
“We would just as soon play the three games,” Albright-Dieterle said. “We’re at home, so playing three is not going to make a difference.
The Akron loss was a good teaching game for us. The players held their own team meeting later that night. So, I believe it was a turning point for our team. Maybe we can get Akron again in the tournament.”
The Huskies turned things around Tuesday night in their 83-76 non-conference road victory over the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Five Huskies reached double figures in scoring, led by Angela Lockett’s 23 points. The sophomore also pulled down 10 offensive rebounds (13 total) as NIU had a decisive 48-30 board advantage.
“Angela is a sophomore who’s starting to play like a junior or senior,” Albright-Dieterle said. “We’re fortunate to be getting the play that we’re getting out of her.”
E.C. Hill has stepped up her game as well. The sophomore has scored in double digits 10 of the last 11 games, including 16 points against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.