Northern Illinois Women’s Basketball Releases 2004-05 Schedule, Huskies Host Notre Dame, DePaul

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Sept. 2, 2004

Northern Illinois Women’s Basketball Releases 2004-05 Schedule, Huskies Host Notre Dame, DePaul

2004-05 Schedule

DeKALB, IL -- Preparation for another difficult road through the Mid-American Conference comes with early challenges and head coach Carol Hammerle has put together another challenging slate for the Huskies in her seventh season. Year in and year out, the Huskies have squared off against a number of the nation’s top programs. This season, Hammerle features another tough non-conference gauntlet for her young squad, which includes games against five programs that appeared in the National Collegiate Athletics Association Tournament in 2004 and two others that participated in the National Invitational Tournament.

“There are no weak teams in the Mid-American Conference and in order to get prepared for the conference schedule, you have to play the best teams during the non-conference season,” Hammerle said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but it will be a challenge that will benefit us down the road immensely. You never know how you will stack up against the best team unless you play them and that’s what we’ve tried to do here at Northern Illinois.”

The 2004-05 campaign gets off to a quick start as NIU opens with a Nov. 20 contest against the Missouri Tigers in the opening round of the KCRG-TV 9 Hawkeye Challenge (Nov. 20-21). Seventh in the Big 12 Conference a season ago, Cindy Stein’s Tigers finished 17-13 overall and earned a No. 11 seed in the Midwest Regional where they fell to No. 6 Stanford in the opening round. The Huskies could continue their NCAA feast a day later when they play either the host Iowa Hawkeyes or Southern Illinois Salukis. Like Mizzou, Iowa earned an at-large slot in the “Big Dance” by tying for fourth in the Big Ten Conference (10-6). Southern Illinois is coming off a 3-24 campaign, but anticipation is high with the hiring of new head coach Dana Eikenberg. Formerly the head coach at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Eikenberg successfully rebuilt a Kangaroo program before accepting the job in Carbondale, IL.

“I feel we have a very challenging start to the season,” Hammerle said. “To open the season against a quality opponent like Missouri and then to have a game against Iowa or Southern Illinois will be great.”

Life away from the Convocation Center continues as the Huskies travel to Cedar Falls, IA, for a Nov. 26 game against Northern Iowa and then to Chicago for a Dec. 1 contest at Loyola University Chicago. The UNI Panthers finished the 2003-04 campaign with a 12-17 overall record but advanced to the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament after finishing sixth in the final regular-season standings. Loyola finished with a nearly identical 11-17 mark last season, which included a 77-60 loss to the Huskies at the Convo on Nov. 21, 2003.

After playing four consecutive games away from DeKalb to open the season, NIU will finally open its home schedule on Dec. 4 against South Dakota State. A perennial power at the NCAA Division II level, the Jackrabbits advanced to the Elite Eight last season with a 26-7 overall record and claimed the Division II national title in 2002-03. Owners of three consecutive NCAA Regional championships, the Jackrabbits sport a gaudy 86-19 record over the last three seasons.

NIU returns to the road for its 33rd meeting with in-state rival Western Illinois. Although the Huskies own a 20-13 series lead with the Westerwinds, WIU did manage to steal a 61-56 win away from the Huskies in DeKalb last season on Nov. 29, 2003.

NIU’s third NCAA opponent was able to come away with a win in last season’s “Big Dance”. After visiting the Convocation Center on Jan. 3, 2004, the DePaul Blue Demons will make their second trip to DeKalb within a year as they square off with NIU on Dec. 15. A Wednesday evening affair with the Conference-USA member should supply plenty of excitement, as DePaul finished the 2003-04 season with a 23-7 overall record and a berth into the round of 32 at the NCAA Tournament. A No. 9 seed entering the Midwest Regional, DePaul hammered No. 8 George Washington 83-46, before falling to national runner-up Tennessee in the second round.

“It’s great to get DePaul back in the Convocation Center,” Hammerle said. “The home court advantage is such a powerful thing and anytime you play a quality opponent, you would like it to be in your own arena.”

NIU’s final road trip of the non-conference season takes it down the Mississippi River to St. Louis, MO, for a contest against the Saint Louis University Billikens. Just the second all-time meeting between the two programs, NIU won the initial meeting last season by a 67-61 margin at the Convocation Center on Dec. 18, 2003.

After playing 6-of-8 non-league games away from DeKalb, NIU wraps up its early slate with home games against Texas-El Paso and Notre Dame. Similar to its series with Saint Louis, the Huskies will be facing UTEP for just the second time in school history, with the only other meeting coming on Dec. 30, 2003, in El Paso, TX, a 62-59 win for Northern Illinois. One of the more impressive road wins for Hammerle’s club, the Miners finished with a 16-13 overall record and claimed fourth place in the final Western Athletic Conference ledger.

The final regular-season matchup should spark plenty of interest throughout the state as the Huskies host national power and former Midwestern Collegiate Conference rival Notre Dame on Dec. 30. The fourth Northern Illinois opponent to participate in the 2004 NCAA Tournament, the Fighting Irish advanced to the “Sweet 16” as a No. 5 seed and finished the year with a 21-11 overall mark. The 15th meeting between the Huskies and Irish, ND holds an 8-6 series lead, with the last meeting coming on March 10, 1995, an 87-64 win for NIU in the championship game of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament.

“The great thing about college basketball is that anything can happen,” Hammerle said. “When I was at Wisconsin-Green Bay, we played Georgia and they were ranked No. 4 in the country. People around the country gave us little chance to beat them. We beat them by 20 points and they dropped down to No. 6 in the standings. You have to play the game and our kids will come out ready to play.”

Following non-conference action, the Huskies will embark on another challenging trip through the Mid-American Conference. Northern Illinois opens the MAC schedule with back-to-back road games at Eastern Michigan (Jan. 8) and Toledo (Jan. 11) and will travel to Ball State (Jan. 19), Central Michigan (Jan. 29), Kent State (Feb. 9), Ohio (Feb. 19) and Buffalo (Feb. 26) throughout the regular-season.

NIU also boasts a number of outstanding contests in the Convocation Center as the Huskies host Marshall (Jan. 15), Akron (Jan. 22), Eastern Michigan (Jan. 26), Ball State (Feb. 5), Miami, OH, (Feb. 12), Toledo (Feb. 16), Western Michigan (Feb. 22) and Bowling Green (March 1).

“Like I said, there are no weak teams in the Mid-American Conference,” Hammerle said. “We have always used the non-conference season to prepare us for the MAC schedule and I feel like we have put together a schedule that will help us do that again this season. Night in and night out games are up for grabs in the league and the teams that are used to playing in tough environments and under strenuous circumstances are usually the ones better able to come away with a win.”

Following the MAC regular-season finale against Bowling Green on March 1, Hammerle and the Huskies will take part in the annual Mid-American Conference Tournament. This year’s tournament runs from March 5-12, with first-round games being held at on-campus sites on March 5, before moving to the Gund Arena in Cleveland March 9-12.

-NIU-