DeKALB — Midway throughout the season the women’s basketball team has found itself on the losing end of the scoreboard for more than half its games, spotting a record of 5-11.
“From a record standpoint we were better last year; every year brings a different team,” Head Coach Lisa Carlsen said.
Last season, the Huskies were holding a record of 10-6 at this time, setting the pace for a 19-13 record.
Before their Saturday win against the University of Akron, the Huskies were on a six-game losing streak, down by an average of 11 points per game.
The Huskies have shot an average of 38% from the field, a two percent decrease from last season. They are also struggling to take care of the ball, averaging 18.3 turnovers.
Carlsen said her team was struggling to shoot the ball at the beginning of the season, but she said she believes her team has begun to shoot better and has more confidence in its shots.
“Our struggles have been on the offensive end,” Carlsen said, “[We] had games where we shoot better but had a lot of turnovers, [limiting] the opportunity to get good shots.”
Saturday’s win gave the Huskies their second win in the past ten games. Carlsen said she thinks the team can build off this win and still have a respectable season.
“We continue to get better,” Carlsen said. “We are more comfortable with each other; that's important.”
Carlsen and some players have said the group needs to play more as a unit if it wants to be successful.
The Huskies are focused on finding each individual’s shot and understanding how to best use everybody on the court.
With the graduation of former guard Mikayla Voigt, the Huskies do not have a consistent scorer outside of redshirt senior guard Courtney Woods. Voigt averaged 19.8 points per game in 2019, leading the Huskies in scoring.
While Woods nursed her torn ACL during the 2019 season, junior guard Gabby Nikitinaite stepped up as a scoring option for the Huskies, averaging 12 points per game in 23 minutes.
Nikitinaite shot 100% Saturday, finishing with eight points and burying two 3-pointers against Akron.
Nikitinaite’s scoring has taken a huge dip from last season, falling to 5.8 points per game, shooting only 33% from the field. Her minutes dropped to an average of 19 per game, dropping her out of the starting line up. First-year guard Grace Hunter was selected as her replacement.
“[Nikitinaite] will be a vital piece of the puzzle,” Carlsen said. “We need to put her in position to help us.”
Hunter has proven to be a viable player during her time as a starter. In her first game in the starting line-up she scored 19 points against the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
Hunter’s defense and level of activity on the floor gave her the nod as a starter, Carlseon said. Since entering the starting line-up, Hunter is averaging six points, shooting 40% percent from 3-point range. She has become a good shooting option, hitting timely 3-pointers for NIU.
Woods, however, has been the only established scorer for the Huskies this season. Coming off a season that ended with an ACL injury, Woods is averaging 17 points and shooting 39% from the field.
After scoring 20 points against the University of Akron in a 70-65 win Saturday night, Woods passed Tammy Hinchee for third place on the school’s scoring list.
Her numbers are down from her small sample size from the 2019 season, however Carlsen does not believe it is due to injury. Teams have been able to key in on Woods on defense, forcing her to beat them with her passing and leaving room for another teammate to step up offensively, likely leading to the dip in scoring.
The Huskies do have players who can help fill the role of a scorer, but no Huskie averages over 10 points outside of Woods.
“We have a lot of players who can [score],” Carlsen said. “It doesn't need to be one person.”
First-year guard Chelby Koker is the Huskies’ second leading scorer with 8.6 points. She is currently on the bench as a spark plug to help fuel the Huskies offense in down moments, allowing starters to rest. Carlsen said Koker has the mindset of a scorer, and she will be interesting to watch as her career unfolds.