Jan. 30, 2009
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DEKALB, Ill. -It's a battle of divisional leaders when the NIU women's basketball team plays host to Bowling Green State Saturday in the first game of a doubleheader with the Falcons at the Convocation Center.
"It's a huge game, but they're all huge at this juncture of the season," NIU head coach Carol Owens said. "We're still a team that's getting better and working on a lot of different things to become a complete team. It poses a great opportunity for us, we just have to be ready to play."
Tip-off for the Huskies and Falcons is 1 p.m. Fans can follow all the action live on 1360 AM WLBK with Bill Baker on the call. After the women's game, the men take the floor against the Falcons at 4 p.m. Fans with tickets to the women's game will gain admission to the men's game and vice versa. For tickets, contact the NIU ticket office at 815-752-6800 or log on to www.niuhuskies.com.
The Huskies (10-9, 5-1) are tied for first in the MAC West, while perennial power Bowling Green (17-2, 6-0) leads the MAC East. The Huskies come into Saturday's game winners of four straight, including three straight at the Convo. The Falcons are currently riding a 17-game winning streak after opening the season 0-2.
NIU scored a 67-59 victory over MAC East foe Ohio last Saturday on the road. Jessie Wilcox (Oshkosh, Wis./West) earned MAC West Player of the Week honors Monday after scoring a game-high 19 points and leading the team with five assists and four steals against the Bobcats and scoring a season-high 20 points in NIU's 76-72 win over Ball State last Wednesday.
Ebony Ellis (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Township) also turned in a good week, posting her sixth double double of the season against the Bobcats, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 boards, while scoring nine against Ball State. Ellis is NIU's leading scorer, averaging 11.2 points a game, with Wilcox right behind her averaging 10.9 points a game. While the Huskie starters have been solid, the bench has played a key role in NIU's success.
Northern Illinois' reserves have outscored the opposition's bench 16 times this season, posting a 9-7 record. NIU's bench scored a season-high 40 points against Illinois State earlier in the year. Marke Freeman (Springfield, Ill./Lanphier) averages 9.2 points a game coming off the bench and leads the team in assists with 60. Aileen Rossouw (Plano, Texas/Plano) has been a strong performer, averaging 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds a game, while freshman Sarah Rogers (Chicago, Ill./Marshall) has turned in quality minutes in her first season of collegiate basketball.
"Everybody has a certain role," Owens said. "Marke's strength is her ability to create for others as well as for herself and her quickness. Sarah can defend, rebound and create for others. Aileen is a post player, playing at the guard position. She's very versatile. Our bench has come up big for us."
Bowling Green has a 16-12 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools and has won seven of the last eight meetings. The last Huskie victory came Feb. 18, 2004 when NIU posted a 102-97 victory at Bowling Green in quadruple overtime. Bowling Green's Tara Breske led all scorers with 23 points, as the Falcons posted an 85-65 victory over the Huskies when the two met in Bowling Green last season. Shari' Welton (Calumet City, Ill./Thornwood) scored a career-high 17 points, going 6-of-8 from the field. Whitney Lowe followed with 15, while Kylie York also finished in double figures with 10.
Saturday is TCF Bank Faculty/Staff Day. All NIU faculty and staff receive four complimentary tickets by responding to firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to the basketball games, the Huskie Athletic Scholarship Fund will host the 2009 HASF Kick-Off from 3-4 p.m. in Victor E. Court.
The Kick-Off marks the beginning of the HASF's annual fund drive and gives current donors and prospective members an opportunity to interact with Huskie head coaches and student-athletes. All fans are invited to the Kick-Off where Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher, and NIU Head Football coach Jerry Kill will speak, while other NIU head coaches will be in attendance to meet and greet fans.