After playing within one possession for most of the first half and the early part of the second half, Northern Illinois looked poised to overtake Eastern Michigan in twilight minutes at the Convocation Center.
However, turnovers, timely rebounding and missed shots hurt the Huskies (9-17, 5-11 MAC) down the stretch against the Eagles (16-11, 6-10 MAC) as NIU fell, 54-45.
Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) led the Huskies’ scoring efforts as she was 6-of-10 from the field with 12 points, four rebounds and an assist. NIU outscored EMU in the paint, 26-18.
“We were unaggressive, in my opinion, and that led to our turnovers. We were unaggressive looking for our shots and our penetration. We need every opportunity we get. You can’t beat yourself on the road and commit unforced turnovers if you want to win games,” said head coach Kathi Bennett.
The Huskies and the Eagles were engaged in a defensive chess match in the first period as the guards worked the ball around the basket to breakdown the opposing defenses. Easter Michigan registered three assists on their nine field goals in the period, while Northern Illinois accumulated five on their 10 baskets.
There wasn’t much between the two teams in the period as only a point separated the two teams at halftime with EMU leading NIU, 24-23. The lead changed four times in the period with the Eagles leading over 18 minutes in the half. Scoring was by committee for the Huskies as seven different players scored in the half with Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) pacing the squad with five points.
Eastern Michigan began a 12-0 run two minutes into the second half to take a 12-point lead, its biggest of the game, but Northern Illinois remained chippy with the Eagles as it cut the lead back down to single digits only a minute after EMU gained the advantage as Augusta drained a layup with 14:23 left in the half.
The Huskies answered the Eagles call over the next 10 minutes and eventually brought it back to within five points, 45-40, with 6:29 remaining in the half as Ally Lehman (Nineveh, Ind./Indian Creek) attacked the rim with a layup.
Timely rebounds by EMU proved to be the difference as the Eagles out rebounded NIU, 9-6, in the final six minutes of the period to take the lead back into double-digits. The Huskies cut the lead back to within nine points after Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) hit a three-point basket with nine seconds remaining in the contest, where the score ended, 54-45.
Northern Illinois out rebounded the Eagles, 37-31, in the contest and blocked three EMU shots defensively. Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) and Jazmine Harris (West Allis, Wis./Heritage Christian) combined for 17 rebounds in the post, with Thorp pulling down nine. Harris scored seven points to go with her eight boards as well.
The Huskies will close its road season Wednesday, March 5, with a contest at Ball State to remain in the hunt for a No. 8 seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament and the right to host a first round game. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Central.