Continuity in its defense and hot shooting led Northern Illinois (2-1) over host Morehead State (1-2), as the Huskies defeated the Eagles in their final game of the WNIT, 76-46.
Ten different Huskies scored in the contest and the team accumulated 19 assists on 27 field goals.
“We played really focused and some really good team basketball tonight,” said head coach Kathi Bennett after the game. “Our assist numbers were the best they had been in a long time and I just felt like we did a really good job against a defense that we hadn’t seen much of. (Morehead State) is a very athletic team and I thought we did a good job of handling that with the way that we played.”
The Huskies blazed a trail to a 13-1 lead in the first four minutes of action, led by a pair of three-point field goals by Satavia Taylor (Bolingbrook) and another by Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind.), the first shot of the game following the tipoff. The Huskies opened the game with a 9-0 run and allowed the Eagles first point on a free throw by Allie Turner at the 16:55 mark. Corral and Jada Buggs (Elkhart, Ind./Memorial) added layups before the Eagles called a timeout to collect themselves at 16:12.
The Eagles began to regain some footing offensively following the first media timeout. Off the bench, Terrice Robinson and Kailee Howe were the Huskies biggest threats as they combined for 17 points in the first half, nine of which came from Howe.
After the first 20 minutes of play, NIU held a 37-22 advantage over MSU.
Natecia Augusta (Peoria/Limestone) and Shaakira Haywood (Canton, Mich./Plymouth) scored four and three points, respectively, in the first half to give the Huskies their only points off the bench. The starting lineup scored the rest of the 30, with Taylor leading the way in the half with nine.
Taylor continued to be a nightmare for the Morehead State defense, as she slithered her way to the open corners behind the arc. She finished the game with high of 18 points and was 6-for-6 behind the three-point line.
“We put a lot of time into our shooting and I always know that it’s going to be payoff because we do think we have offensive weapons. (Satavia) hit her threes brilliantly and she just played her tail off tonight. We’re very proud of her and she has that ability and everyone contributed to that lead tonight.”
As strong as they started, the Huskies finished, increasing their largest lead of the night as the clock began to countdown to zero in the second half. Northern Illinois built its lead to as high as 31 points, thanks in part to an Alexis Lindstromm (Howards Grove, Wis.) layup at the 2:45 mark, giving the Huskies a 69-38 advantage.
The Eagles defense tested NIU at times in the first and for most of the second half, masking its standard 2-3 zone with a 1-3-1 defense, and also using that to press at half court. The Huskies countered with a high-passing volume in the game which led to its season-high 19 assists on their 27 shots (70.4 percent).
NIU had three players score in the double-digit scorers with Corral and Buggs each contributing 11 points to the team’s effort. It was the second-straight game for Corral in double figure scoring.
Buggs also added eight rebounds – two offensive – in the effort. Augusta led the team with nine rebounds in the game and also scored six points with a block.
The Huskies also racked up 31 points in the paint in the contest to the Eagles 14. While NIU stormed the paint like a panzer tank in the game, it also surged flashed like lightning from end-to-end as the team outscored Morehead State on fast break points, 10-2.
Bennett was very pleased with the team’s opening three-game road trip and was complimentary of her team as it headed home.
“We’ve conditioned a little bit extra and I could see it (tonight). I felt like we recovered really well in our conditioning level (playing back-to-back nights). We played really well in that aspect.”
The win lifts Northern Illinois to 2-1 this season. The wins over Davidson and Morehead State also carry historic weight as Huskies recorded their most successful weekend ever in the Preseason WNIT, having never won a game in the tournament.
The Huskies will return to the hardwood at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21, for their home opener versus South Dakota State, which is coming off of an upset over No. 15 Nebraska.