Nov. 2, 2012
DeKALB, Ill. - Third year Head Coach Kathi Bennett and the Northern Illinois women's basketball team begin the 2012-13 season Monday, Nov. 5 with an exhibition matchup against NAIA powerhouse Indiana Wesleyan at 7 PM CT at the NIU Convocation Center.
With just four practices left before starting the regular season, 300-win coach Bennett and Co. feel ready to go as they return over 60 percent of their points and rebounds from a 2011-12 squad that went 14-17, 6-10 in Mid-American Conference play, and reached the MAC quarterfinals for the first time since 2007.
"I think we've made a lot of progress the last three days and I've liked what I've seen," said Bennett. "Our intensity on the defensive end has been a lot better. We've done some new things offensively which will hopefully help us against Indiana Wesleyan. The main thing we are looking to work on in this game is our rotations. We want to see who plays well together and try to solidify a starting five."
With eight returning players, the Huskies will welcome in four newcomers for the 2012-13 campaign. A defensive-centered and fundamentally sound offensive 2012-13 team begins with a presence around the basket. The Huskies featured just two players over 6'0" tall last year - Natecia Augusta (So.) and Shaakira Haywood (Sr.) but neither averaged more than 12 minutes per game - both are back and improved along with sophomore Wisconsin-transfer Jada Buggs (6'0") and freshmen McKenzie Hoelmenn (6'2") and Nichole Wittman (6'0").
Augusta showed flashes of offensive dominance in the post as a rookie with four games of scoring eight or more points. Haywood notched her first double-figure scoring game and had four or more rebounds five times.
The newcomers bring a plethora of talent. Buggs, who can do a little of everything on the court, played only 15 games as a freshman at Wisconsin, and was an all-state selection in Indiana as a senior in high school. Hoelmenn comes in from Lakeville North High School in Minnesota as the No. 3-ranked prospect in the state by Max Preps and No. 87-ranked player in the country. She scored 496 points and pulled down 471 rebounds while shooting 49.3 percent in her prep career and led LNHS to three straight conference titles. Also from Minnesota, Wittman comes in ranked as Max Preps' No. 41-ranked player in the state and averaged double figures and over five rebounds per game in each of her last two seasons while leading Hutchinson High School to a 50-7 record.
At guard, NIU features four stout contributors. Leading the way will be Amanda Corral, who is coming off an outstanding freshman season and is the Huskies' leading returning scorer. The 5'6" Indiana native averaged 10 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, shot 41.8 percent from the field and an even better 45.1 percent on three-pointers, which led the MAC and ranked as the highest single season percentage in Huskie history. Returning from knee surgery that held her out of most of the 2011-12 season is sophomore Danny Pulliam, who averaged 27.1 minutes and six points per game as a freshman. Also returning is Alicia Johnson - a junior that came on as a defensive impact player last year and averaged over three points and rebounds per game.
The newcomer to the group is defensive specialist Alexis Lindstrom. The Wisconsin native was named Wisconsin Sports Network's top defender in 2011-12 as she averaged 4.6 steals per game and 4.9 rebounds per game, while scoring over 17 points per game. She also averaged 17.6 points, 4.6 steals, 4.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game as a junior and was an all-state selection in each of her final two seasons.
NIU has three different players in terms of style at wing. Senior Satavia Taylor is a smooth operator that can score from anywhere on the court and averaged 7.5 points per game in her first season with the Huskies. Junior Ashley Sneed is an athletic slasher who scored her first two double figure games last year. Sophomore Jenna Thorp is a hard-working hustler who averaged nearly four points and four rebounds per game as a rookie.
Since 2005-06, Indiana Wesleyan has posted an astounding record of 209-36 under Head Coach Steve Brooks, the 2011-12 NAIA National Coach of the Year. Last season, the Wildcats made the NAIA Elite Eight and finished first in MCC play for the third straight year and won the MCC Tournament for the second straight year. In 13 seasons under Brooks, IWU has had less than 28 wins just three times and has had double digit losses only three times. Ranked fourth in the NAIA Preseason Poll, the Wildcats will have already played one game before meeting the Huskies as they open their season on Nov. 3 at Indiana-South Bend.
"I'm excited for this game because I have so much respect for what Coach Brooks has done, making it to the Elite Eight for the third straight year," said Bennett. "They've been really good in the NAIA pretty consistently. They are going to be a great test for us - I don't know if people really know how good they are. I'm really looking forward to the challenge."
NIU officially begins the season with the Preseason WNIT as the Huskies face Iowa in Iowa City on Nov. 9 at 5:30 PM. NIU's first home game is Nov. 21 versus South Dakota State at 7 PM.
NIU women's basketball season tickets are on sale now and are just $50, or $40 for NIU football season ticket holders, faculty/staff or seniors. Season tickets are a 48 percent discount over single game prices and guarantee fans the same seat for all 12 home games this season. Courtside season tickets are also available for $100.
For more information or to purchase season tickets call the Huskie Marketing office at (815) 753-1923 or log on to NIUHuskies.com/tickets.