The Northern Illinois women’s basketball program will hit the Convocation Center hardwood for the first time under new head coach Kathi Bennett at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, in an exhibition contest against UW-Parkside.
Bennett has been at the reins of the program since being introduced as the program’s ninth head coach in May. Since her hiring, Bennett has engrained a style rooted in hard work and commitment to her five cornerstones: passion, servanthood, unity, humility and thankfulness. She is hoping to see those principles manifest themselves on the court.
“Our first step, early in the process, is to play hard,” Bennett said. “You can’t do anything if you don’t do that first, and that’s going to be step number one for us in our first game.”
Bennett is known for her high standards. But against the Rangers, she will be measuring her team not by the mistakes the players make, but by their response to them.
“Are we going to make mistakes? Yes. Are we going to have some turnovers? Are we going to lose vision? Yes. It’s our first game,” she said. “The key for us in this game is to play on and through those things.”
Bennett’s goals have remained simple in the early going with her new team.
“Every day we try to get better, and I feel for the most part we have done that,” she said. “There have been days where we take three steps up. Then there have been days where we take a step back, but we turn around and take two steps up the next day.”
Bennett said she believes her team has bought into the new way of doing things. Bennett would know what that looks like. Bennett holds a 58-51 record in her first years with program. If she can attain that winning percentage this year at NIU, it would be the team’s first season above .500 since 2006-07.
That journey starts with UW-Parkside, an NCAA Division-II team that finished last year with a 23-8 overall record and was picked to finish first in the North Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference this year.
“I know that Parkside is really well-coached and a really good Division-II team,” Bennett said. “It will be a great challenge for us and a great test for us to get ready.”
The Rangers have already played exhibitions against Purdue, an 88-48 loss, and Marquette, falling 76-43.
“They are a really disciplined team that executes their offense, spreads you out and sets a lot of screens,” Bennett said. “I want to see us really get our defense set and stay within our principles.”
The Huskies open the regular season at the Best Buy Classic, hosted Saturday, Nov. 13, and Sunday, Nov. 14, by Minnesota. NIU starts the tournament against the Golden Gophers, and will face either George Washington or Green Bay in the second round. Northern Illinois starts its home slate Saturday, Nov. 27, against Chicago State.
Women’s basketball season tickets cost just $50 for the general public, while a season courtside seat package will be priced at $100. Fans can purchase season tickets by calling (815) 753-1923 or by visiting NIUHuskies.com/tickets. NIU students are admitted free to all NIU Athletics events with their OneCard.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.