By any definition, Northern Illinois University women’s basketball reached dynasty status in the late 20th Century.
A quote from then junior Hall of Fame point guard Denise Dove in 1989-90 summed up the era: “We were on a mission from the beginning.”
It was a blur of Huskie achievement, those 11 years under head coach Jane Albright and Liz Galloway-McQuitter (1984-95).
The ultra-loyal Chick Evans Field House “Hoop Troopers” talked in their own language— with “C.O.”, “Double D”, “Light ‘Em Up Lisa”, “Charmo”, “Coach A” nicknames, all informal tributes to those NIU individuals and their aggressive style of play that created this gung-ho fan culture. How better to share a Northern Illinois game—win or lose—by the players and coaching staff navigating “The Ring”—with fans lining four sides of the court in post-game, getting a hug, a handshake, or a high five. It was the ritual in Evans.
How can one argue with six consecutive post-season tournament berths (five National Collegiate Athletic Association berths and one National Women’s Invitational Tournament appearance in 1989-95), one pre-season NWIT bid (1994-95), nine .500 or better campaigns, seven NCAA tourney games (two at home), five 20-plus victory seasons, four post-season league tournament championships (North Star Conference in 1990 and 1992, Mid-Continent Conference in 1993, and Midwestern Collegiate Conference in 1995), three regular-season loop titles (North Star Conference in 1989-90, Mid-Continent Conference in both 1992-93 and 1993-94), two regular-season Associated Press Top 25 national finishes (No. 17 in 1989-90 and No. 25 in 1992-93), two unbeaten conference years (12-0 in 1989-90 and 18-0 in 1993-94), and one undefeated home season (13-0 in 1993-94)?
The best quintet of these 11? By consensus of the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame Selection Committee, Albright’s 1989-90 group was enshrined in 2005 and rightfully so. It was the first women’s Huskie basketball NCAA team with a school-record 26 triumphs in 31 outings, the No. 17 final AP ranking, and the nation’s No. 1 offense (94.5 ppg. average with eight games over 100 points—including a record 122 vs. Valparaiso—and 11 more efforts with 90 or more). Four of the five 1989-90 starters—Dove, guard Lisa Foss, forward Tammy Hinchee, and center Carol Owens—eventually made the Northern Illinois Hall of Fame as individuals.
Northern Illinois went 3-0 vs. the Big Ten Conference and defeated North Star rival DePaul three times (81-75, 92-77, and 97-85) that winter. The first game in Chicago drew five busloads of NIU fans and marked the Huskies’ initial triumph in DU’s Alumni Hall, led by Hinchee’s game-high 35 points. The Huskies also avenged the 76-61 setback to the Blue Demons in the 1989 NSC Tournament title game.
On February 15, 1990, the NIU-DU rematch at Evans drew a standing room only crowd of 6,118—the largest to see a women’s college game in the state at the time and biggest announced basketball crowd—male or female—ever at Evans. As host of the NSC tourney on March 10, Albright and company beat DePaul again for the ticket to NCAA’s Big Dance and the Midwest Regional opposite No. 5 seed Texas Tech.
With a combined 70 points from the four aforementioned NIU Hall of Famers, the Huskies upset TTU (84-63) before an impressive spring break crowd in Evans of 5,417 spectators on March 14. Next was Purdue. In a back and forth contest with 19 ties and 26 lead changes, the Boilermakers prevailed (86-81) on March 18 at Mackey Arena.
After the 1993-94 season, Albright was lured away by Wisconsin of the Big Ten and replaced by Galloway-McQuitter who kept the post-season string alive at six by beating UW-Green Bay, Notre Dame, and LaSalle in OT (80-77) for the MCC tourney crown on NIU’s home floor to capture the NCAA bid vs. Vanderbilt in 1994-95.
At NIU, Albright recruited or coached 14 of the program’s current 31 1,000-point career scorers. She tutored one World Games participant (guard E.C. Hill), two Olympic Sports Festival players (Owens and Hill), one WNBA performer (Hill), six All-America picks, and four District Four All-Americas. Albright is one of nine members of the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame from that cage era. Three of her Northern Illinois assistants—Sue Semrau (Florida State), Deb Patterson (ex-Kansas State) and Kamie Ethridge (Washington State) became Division I head coaches.
In addition to elevating the NIU program to a national level and generating unprecedented community interest, Albright upgraded Huskie schedules to feature such name, national opponents as Iowa, Tennessee, North Carolina State, Vanderbilt, Southern Cal, and South Carolina.
By Mike Korcek, Sports Information Director Emeritus
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