The Northern Illinois women’s basketball team shot a respectable 42 percent from the field (23-for-54) Tuesday, 4 percent better than the visiting Illinois-Chicago.
But UIC (10-2) was an impressive 27-of-31 (.871) from the free throw line, compared to NIU’s 7-of-10 (.700) effort, lifting the Flames to a 66-54 defeat of the Huskies.
Northern Illinois (4-6) converted 23 field goals and registered a season-high 18 assists with Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) and Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) each dishing four. Natecia Augusta led the Huskies with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting. Northern Illinois closed its non-conference schedule 4-6.
“I thought we got a little tentative once we made some mistakes. We need learn to just embrace the moment and continue to play our attacking style. We played well enough to win today.” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “Offensively and defensively, we’re doing the right things, we just need to have some shots fall and limit the amount of turnovers. I can handle errors because those happen, but we can’t play tentative. We have nothing to lose.”
The Huskies split the scoring in the first stanza as NIU worked the open pockets, first finding freshman Ally Lehman (Nineveh, Ind./Indian Creek), then Augusta and rounding out with Corral, Pulliam and Ashley Sneed (Harvey, Ill./Thornton). Augusta led Huskie scorers in the first half with six points. Each of the aforementioned scored at least four points in the period.
The balanced attack led to a one point NIU advantage with 4:47 left in the half, 26-25, as Alex Lindstrom (Howards Grove, Wis./Howards Grove) drained a three-pointer after receiving a bullet pass from Alex Dumoulin (Elgin, Ill./Elgin CC) across the court. The Flames would go on a 6-0 run to end the first period with a 31-26 lead.
After finishing the first half 8-of-9 at the free throw line, UIC would go back to the line 22 times to finish the contest 27-of-31. The Flames were 8-for-25 (.320) from the field in the second frame.
The Huskies attacked the paint in the period to score and breakdown Illinois-Chicago’s post presence, taking center Katie Hannemann out of the game early with four fouls. Lead passes to Augusta allowed the junior to kiss the glass with her lethal hook shot as Pulliam and Corral serviced. Pulliam found success on the drive and on the line, and Lehman and Sneed spotted up to combine for 8-of-13 (.615) shooting from the field. The quartet accounted for 43 points in contest.
Lehman scored a career-high 10 points, shooting 5-of-7 in the game. From the bench, Sneed was 3-for-6 from the field with two free throws to round out her night with eight points. The senior’s spot up jumper has proved a valuable piece to the Huskies offensive puzzle thus far as she is shooting a team-best .545 from the field.
Freshman Amber Gray (Mukwonago, Wis./Mukwonago) saw her first extended playing time of the season, converting a layup off the glass for her first career basket. Gray also added one rebound her 11 minutes on the court.
UIC’s Ruvanna Campbell scored game-high 22 points, followed closely behind Rachel Story’s 20. Story, a transfer from Louisville, was 10-for-11 at the free throw line.
Northern Illinois will open up Mid-American Conference play at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 4, at the NIU Convocation Center when it hosts Ohio. The Bobcats closed non-conference play 5-6.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.