Tennessee victorious in the war

By David Lance

Like all fine, well-trained regiments, Tennessee’s women’s basketball team doesn’t flinch when faced with a threat.

So when the fourth-ranked Lady Volunteers found themselves down one point at halftime to NIU in hostile Chick Evans Field House Friday night, they did not fret.

“We knew what was coming,” NIU’s head coach Jane Albright-Dieterle said.

The Lady Volunteers opened the second half with an ambush. A Nikki McCray steal and layup, a Dena Head layup, another steal and layup from McCray and with only a minute elapsed, NIU found itself down 34-29.

Tennessee began the half with 11 unanswered points and never looked backed, winning 78-61 in front of 4,533 spectators.

“I thought that our team came out (in the second half) and took it at them,” said Head, who led Tennessee with 18 points, 13 in the second half. “I thought there was more confidence within our team, as far as taking it to the basket and definitely looking to score.”

“I think our team definitely matured some in the second half,” Tennessee head coach Pat Head Summitt said.

In the first half, it was NIU (9-6) showing most of the poise. The Huskies went into intermission up 29-28 on a Cindy Conner jumper with five seconds left. Despite missing several layups, the Huskies had finally grabbed their only lead of the game.

The Huskies stopped Tennessee in the first half by blocking its shots. NIU recorded 14 rejections, 10 before half. Still, with just under three minutes left in the first half, Tennessee was up 26-21. But a Conner bucket, an E.C. Hill 19-footer and a Dee Dee Jeske put-back narrowed Tennessee’s lead to 28-27.

“We won the battle and lost the war,” Albright-Dieterle said. “I was very pleased with what we did first half, probably more so defensively than offensively. Obviously, the game was lost in the first couple of minutes of the second half when their pressure got to us. We completed folded in it.”

McCray scored 15 points and teammate Peggy Evans scored 14. NIU’s Angela Lockett and Hill scored 14 points apiece, with Lockett grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds. Conner scored a game-high 21 points.

“I don’t think (Tennessee) underestimated,” Conner said. “I think they were ready for us.”

Just as the University of Illinois-Chicago should be tonight at 7:30 p.m. when NIU heads its way for a North Star Conference battle.