With the Mid-American Conference regular season winding down next week, the standings and battle for hosting a first-round MAC Tournament were jumbled up as the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team dropped a 73-50 decision to Central Michigan on Wednesday night at McGuirk Arena.
Coupled with Akron’s loss to Miami (Ohio) and Ohio’s win over Bowling Green today, the Chippewa win created a four-way tie for fifth overall in the league between NIU, CMU, Akron and Ohio.
Seed Nos. 5 to 8 will all host a first-round game, but nothing is set in stone as two games are left and Ball State and Kent State are two games back of jumping into the mix.
Last time the Chippewas and Huskies met, CMU had won six of its last seven games and NIU had lost three of its last five. The tables were flipped this time around – CMU entered the game with seven losses in its last nine games, while NIU had won six of its last nine – but the result was eerily similar.
Back on Jan. 5 in DeKalb, Ill., the Chippewas won 86-67 thanks to an 18-8 edge in turnovers and a 32-15 run to end the game. In the rematch, CMU once again held an edge in turnovers (19-13) but used a big run to end the first half, leaving NIU with an uphill battle.
With NIU up 19-14 at the 12:15 mark of the first half following back-to-back threes by Courtney Shelton (Rockford, Ill./Hononegah) and Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart), CMU erupted for a 15-0 run that was helped by four NIU turnovers.
Overall, the Chippewas outscored NIU 27-8 during the final 12:15 of the half as NIU turned the ball over eight times and went 3-for-16 from the field. Meanwhile, CMU went 9-for-20 during the spurt to take a 41-27 lead at the half as NIU surrendered 40 or more points in the first half for just the third time all season – and all three resulted in losses.
Corral started the second half off for NIU with a jumper off the glass and it felt like NIU was building momentum with stops on defense. However, the Chippewas quickly found their offensive rhythm from the first half and ran off 12 straight points as they went 4-for-4 from the field and NIU went 1-for-5 during the run.
NIU countered with 12-0 run of its own that was fueled by seven straight points from Shelton. The spurt brought the game back within 12 points with CMU leading 53-41 with 10:52 remaining.
Unfortunately, a costly turnover dashed any hopes of NIU bouncing all the way back. After a CMU three and Satavia Taylor (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook/Loyola) jumper, Taylor’s kick-out pass to Shelton went through Shelton’s hands and CMU’s Jessica Green recovered for a three-point play on a fast break. With CMU up 59-43 and 9:06 left, the Huskies would not get any closer than 16 points the rest of the way.
Shelton led NIU with 12 points and has scored in double figures in three of the last four games. Taylor Johnson led CMU with 20 points and was 6-for-8 from three-point land. Overall, the Chippewas were 11-for-25 from behind the arc, while NIU went 5-for-15.
The Huskies end a mini, two-game road trip Saturday, Feb. 26, with a 3:30 p.m. game at Toledo.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.