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In observance of the Presidents Day holiday, the Daily Chronicle newspaper will not be published February 17. Breaking news and information will be updated on Daily-Chronicle.com.
Sports

Lack of chemistry hurts NIU

Chemistry can be a peculiar thing. Teams with great chemistry can still play poorly while other teams can barely get along and still succeed. In the case of Northern Illinois' women's basketball team, this year fell somewhere in-between. This year could be considered a yearlong lesson in chemistry for the Huskies. The result? A 10-18 season that provided plenty of lessons and offered some hope for next season. The expectations weren't high entering this season. NIU needed to replace nearly its entire scoring load outside of wing, and eventual All-MAC Second Team member Whitney Lowe. The Huskies essentially needed nametags at the start of the year and it showed with an early five-game losing streak. “I think the interesting thing about the team this year is what we had to replace in some of our girls that left,” said coach Carol Owens. “To lose that kind of scoring power and then see the growth and maturity of these girls.” That lack of chemistry and experience of playing together was especially tough on the Huskies on the road this season. A 2-14 record away from DeKalb proved to be one of the main reasons for a sub-.500 year. Lowe said the play on the road this year came down to a simple fact, and chemistry played a part. “We weren't believing in ourselves enough,” Lowe said. “We were young and we played like that on the road with the inexperience of the team.” But when Mid-American Conference play started, a team that barely knew each other began to grow and bond. The Huskies went 6-8 in conference play, highlighted by a three-game winning streak in late January. Lowe called a two-point win at home against Western Michigan one of the team's highlights of the season. Owens pointed to the team not hurting itself with mistakes as one of the big reasons for better play. “In conference play, things really started coming together,” Owens said. “We started taking care of the ball better as the year went on.” And there was another problem with Northern Illinois this year. There was no true point guard on the roster. In basketball, there is perhaps no more important position in terms of leadership than that spot. In a position that usually gets pointed to first when it comes to chemistry, NIU had no clear leader. Jessie Wilcox and Kylie York attempted to fill the void, and did with varying degrees of success. Wilcox showed she was more than capable of playing the position in the MAC Tournament when she dished out seven assists in NIU's first-round loss. But that loss still came in the first round of the conference tournament, which ended NIU's season. That loss is something Owens doesn't plan on letting happen next season. “We were not as consistent as we needed to be,” Owens said. “The chemistry took a while and leadership is always important to make us a lot better.” Looking ahead to next season, NIU returns nearly everyone on the roster. Wilcox, York, Shari' Welton, Becky Smith, Ebony Ellis and Mauvolyene Adams should be some of the top players for the Huskies next year. Owens singled out one player and said she's looking for Welton to step up on and off the court next year. “Shari' Welton is going to be a very good leader for us,” Owens said. “I think we did OK last spring and summer for getting better, but they can all do more.”

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