Feb. 6, 2009
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DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois University women's basketball looks to build on its victory over Akron Wednesday night when it travels to Kent, Ohio to take on Kent State at the M.A.C. Center Saturday.
Tip-off is set for 11 a.m. and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports Net Ohio. Jeff Phelps will have the play-by-play duties, while former Toledo head coach Mark Elhen will handle color commentary.
The Huskies (11-10, 6-2) are back in a tie with Ball State and Toledo for the top spot in the MAC West, while the Golden Flashes (15-5, 4-4) are locked in a three-way battle for second place in the MAC East. Kent State returns home after falling to Central Michigan 109-94 in Mt. Pleasant.
Kent State has a 15-9 edge in the all-time series between the two schools. However, NIU has won two of the last three meetings. The Huskies won the regular season meeting last year, 83-74 in overtime at the Convocation Center. Both Whitney Lowe and Ebony Ellis turned in a double-double with Lowe scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 boards, while Ellis scored 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Kent State returned the favor in the 2008 MAC Tournament, defeating Northern Illinois, 75-67 in the first round game.
This year's edition of the NIU women's basketball team is off to the best start of Carol Owens coached team since 2006-07. That team posted a 5-3 mark in its first eight conference games, en route to an 8-8 finish and an appearance in the semi-finals of the 2007 MAC Women's Basketball Tournament. This year's NIU team is a different team from the squad of two years ago not just in personnel, but in style as well.
"We have a lot more weapons and a little more depth," Owens said. "We had some balance, but not the balance we have this year. We're just playing together as a team."
This year's squad isn't that different from the 2007-08 team. Having lost four letter winners, including three starters, last season was a learning experience for players and coaches alike. Lesson learned. The 2008-09 Huskies have a multi-faceted offense, with five different Huskies leading NIU in scoring in its 21 games this season.
"We've learned a lot from last year," Owens said. "Going through adversity only makes you stronger, especially when you learn from it. Our leadership is better this year, and they know what's expected on them."
Jessie Wilcox (Oshkosh, Wis./West) and Ebony Ellis (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Township) have been NIU's most consistent scorers this season. Both are tied for the team lead in scoring, averaging 11.5 points a game. Wilcox has led NIU in scoring nine times and Ellis six. Kylie York (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) has also had some strong games, leading the Huskies in scoring in four games, including a season-high 22 points against UIC.
Mauvolyene Adams (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) has improved a great deal in recent weeks. She has become the perfect complement to Ellis in the post. Adams has finished in double-figures seven times this season, including back-to-back double digit scoring performances.
This team has learned a great deal over the course of the season. The goal of this team this year has to always improve as the season goes on. Owens and the Huskies believe their best basketball is still ahead of them.