Northern Illinois led Eastern Michigan from start to finish Sunday as the Huskies defeated the Eagles, 77-54.
Huskie Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) led her team with a career-high scoring effort, finishing the game with 30 points, six rebounds and four assists.
NIU (5-7, 2-1 MAC) earned its first victory over EMU (11-3, 1-2 MAC) since Jan. 17, 2009. Both games were played at the NIU Convocation Center.
“It’s great to win at home. I thought we played really well against a team with a winning record and held our home court, and we’re excited about the direction that we’re going,” said head coach Kathi Bennett in the postgame press conference. “Being 2-1 in the MAC before heading out on the road for two straight games is where we need to be.”
The Huskies defense surrendered only 19 points in the first half, tying its lowest mark set earlier this season at Illinois State (Dec. 5, 2013). Eastern Michigan, who entered the game with a scoring average of 84.9 points per game, was held to a season-low 19 points in the period and 54 points in the game, also a season-low for EMU.
Offensively, NIU delivered 36 points in the opening frame.
NIU opened the game on a 11-2 run at the first media timeout and went on another 11-3 run later in the half. The Huskies would finish the first period 15-of-32 (.469) from the field with a 36-19 lead. The Eagles were only 7-of-32 (.219) from the field.
Eastern Michigan had no answer for Corral as she reached double-figures 12 minutes into the first half and finished with 13 points in the half. Northern Illinois found success against Eastern Michigan’s full-court press, moving the ball quickly down the court with poise and working it inside, then back out.
Corral became the first Huskie since Marke Freeman in 2011 versus Ball State to score 30-or-more points in a game. The junior guard was 10-of-16 from the field and 8-of-9 from the free throw line. She exited the court after two made free throws with a standing ovation from the NIU fans with 2:20 left on the clock.
“She’s playing really well right now,” Bennett said of Corral. “She’s playing with a lot of poise and she’s making the right decisions on the floor, using her explosiveness off the ball to create chances. To score 30 and defend the way she does, that’s what I like. She’s a complete player.”
The Hobart, Ind., native averaged 25.0 points per game this week, shooting .633 from the field (19-of-30) and .846 from the charity stripe (11-of-13). She also averaged 5.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and one steal per game during the week.
Jazmine Harris (West Allis, Wis./Heritage Christian) showed off her athleticism down low as she worked her way to eight points in the first half and 14 points total off the bench. Harris was 5-of-8 from the field and a flawless 4-for-4 at the free throw line.
Eastern Michigan rallied back in the second half as it displayed its impressive shooting ability. The Eagles worked with a rapid pace down the court and fired at their first open look, as they were an improved 11-of-29 (.379). NIU also continued to score, shooting 14-for-28 (.500) in the frame. It was the third straight game that the Huskies scored 40-or-more points in the second stanza.
Northern Illinois finished with 38 points in the paint, 26 more than the Eagles, who finished with 12. Harris and Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) were a large part of the Huskies success in the post as Augusta finished with 11 points and was perfect 5-for-5 scoring.
The Huskies outrebounded the Eagles in the game, 45-37, with 13 of those coming from Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hickley-Big Rock), who set a new career-high. She finished with four points, two assists and a steal.
NIU’s 77-point performance was two shy of a season-high, set versus Mississippi Valley State and against Lamar. It was the fifth time this season the Huskies scored 70-or-more points.
Northern Illinois will return to action Wednesday, Jan. 15, at defending MAC Tournament Champion Central Michigan. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Central.