After a solid opening half and a promising start to the second, the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team (7-9, 3-3 MAC) could not continue its rhythm as Buffalo (10-7, 3-3 MAC) defeated the Huskies, 63-52.
Junior Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) recorded her first career double-double as she she scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. NIU and UB combined for a field goal percentage of .318.
“I thought in the first half and in the start of the second half we played really well and we had great looks but we couldn’t finish in the second and that started to affect us at the other end of the floor,” head coach Kathi Bennett said during the post-game interview.
“Jenna played extremely hard tonight and did everything in her power to try and help us win, grabbing five boards on the offensive glass. I just wish we would have finished shots to take advantage of those opportunities.”
With Buffalo’s length an advantage on the tale of the tape, Thorp embraced the challenge as she was the games leading scorer and rebounder at halftime with eight points and six boards.
On her final rebound of the half, Thorp ran after a missed three-point shot by Alexis Lindstrom (Howards Grove, Wis./Howards Grove), that caromed straight off the rim and darted to the sideline. The Hinckley, Ill. native dove for the loose and threw herself to the floor and into the operations tables to tip the ball to Lindstrom, invigorating the NIU bench and crowd at the Convocation Center.
The energy would give the Huskies the final points of the half on a Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) layup that put NIU back within one point heading into the locker room, 24-23. The Bulls finished the half with four blocks and six in the game.
Northern Illinois jumped out of the gate in the second half and went on a 6-2 run to take a 29-26 lead in the period. Buffalo slowly began to chip away at the Huskies lead and eventually overtook NIU with 13:58 left in the half. While the Northern Illinois defense forced the Bulls to take bad shots and grabbed rebounds on the defensive glass to end those threats, it was unable to convert the baskets it needed to retake the lead on the offensive side of the floor.
Freshman Jazmine Harris (West Allis, Wis./Heritage Christian) brought the Huskies back within five with 8:18 left, 40-35, but the Bulls would charge and build their lead to 18. NIU went down swinging in the final minutes of the game as it finished the contest on an 11-4 run as Lindstrom hit two big shots from behind the arc to aid the Huskies late comeback effort.
Northern Illinois was almost perfect at the free throw line, finishing 14-for-15 at the charity stripe. Augusta was a perfect 6-for-6, followed closely by Ally Lehman’s (Nineveh, Ind/Indian Creek) 4-for-4 performance. Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) was 2-for-2 from the line as well. The Bulls finished 20-of-27 from the free throw line. Augusta finished with eight points and four rebounds, followed by Lehman’s six point, six rebound night.
The Huskies will return to action Sunday, January 26 at 1 p.m. Central when they take on Bowling Green at the Stroh Center. The game will be televised live on Time Warner Cable Sports, BCSN, ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court Package, and tape delayed in the Chicagoland area on Comcast Chicago at 3 p.m. Central.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.