March 10, 2009
Complete Release in PDF Format
CLEVELAND - The Northern Illinois University women's basketball team embarks on its journey for a trip to the NCAA Tournament when the Huskies open play in the 2009 Kraft MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio Wednesday afternoon.
"We're excited," NIU head coach Carol Owens said. "It's March Madness. This is the time we've been waiting for."
NIU (15-14, 10-6), the No. 3 seed in the West, will take on the No. 6 seed team out of the East Buffalo (6-23-2-14) in the first round game at 1 p.m. CST. Fans can follow all the action live with Bill Baker on 1360 AM WLBK.
Northern Illinois' free throw shooting down the stretch helped propel the Huskies to a 70-63 victory over Buffalo when the two met at University Arena Feb. 14, 2009. The Huskies made 23-of-28 from the charity stripe, including 15 straight free throws in the last four minutes and played solid defense in the second half to seal the victory.
Mauvolyene Adams (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) led the way for NIU with 16 points. She was one of four Huskies to hit double figures. Marke Freeman (Springfield, Ill./Lanphier) finished with 15 points, Aileen Rossouw (Plano, Texas/Plano) added 13, while Kylie York (Fishers, Ind./Hamilton Southeastern) ended with 11 points.
Owens knows for the Huskies to be successful against Buffalo and throughout the tournament, NIU has to win the battle on the boards and play solid defense.
"We've got to rebound very well," Owens said. "Our defense is going to be key as well. When you're playing solid team defense, you'll always have opportunities to be successful. I think those are the two keys heading into the game. If we play good defense, we're going to execute well on offense."
NIU comes into the tournament on high note, defeating Western Michigan 73-69 Saturday in Kalamazoo, Mich. Jessie Wilcox had a breakout game as her 24-point outburst tied her career-high. She went 9-of-16 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. NIU's leading scorer, averaging 10.9 points a game, Wilcox enters the tourney five points shy from 1,000 points for her Huskie career.
The Huskies are 3-3 in the MAC Tournament under Carol Owens and 9-12 in 15 years in the conference tournament. Northern Illinois is 1-0 versus Buffalo in tournament play, defeating the Bulls, 56-41, when the two met in DeKalb, Ill. March 2, 2002 in a first-round game. NIU advanced to the championship game in 1982, falling to Miami (OH), 58-56.
Northern Illinois' best showing at the MAC Tournament under Owens was in 2007 when NIU went 2-1, advancing to the semifinals for the first time since the 2001-02 season. The Huskies fell to Ball State, 83-72, in the semifinal game. Senior Becky Smith (Janesville, Wis./Parker) set a MAC Tournament record in the 2007 MAC Tournament, shooting 94 percent from the field (12-fo-13) in three games. Smith is a 68 percent shooter from the field (17-of-25) during her five games in the tournament over the last three seasons.