The Huskies, who improved to 2-1 on the season, led by as many as 12 points in the second half, but the Leathernecks (0-2) knocked down five second-half three-pointers to stay within touching distance down the stretch. The Leathernecks got as close as three with 1:51 remaining. Ebony Ellis hit a lay-up on the Huskies’ next trip down the floor, and Freeman knocked down two free throws 36 seconds later to give NIU a 67-60 lead with 57 seconds left.
Including Freeman’s two makes, the Huskies went 8-for-8 from the free throw stripe in the last minute of the game to seal their second straight win.
“We’ve done a good job (making free throws) at the end of games,” NIU head coach Kathi Bennett said. “We did that against George Washington and here at Western. That was very encouraging.”
Ellis finished the night with 16 points and 14 rebounds, including eight on the offensive glass. Her effort helped NIU outscore the Leathernecks 36-22 in the paint, and score nine second chance points.
“The way she rebounded, she was fierce,” Bennett said. “She was really something on the glass. In the first half, I was like ‘just shoot it cause Ebony will get (the rebound) and put it back in.’ She was on it.”
Sophomore Kim Davis also helped the Huskies inside, scoring 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting and adding four rebounds.
The game was hard-fought, though not well-played. The teams combined for 42 turnovers, with Northern Illinois committing 14 in the first half alone.
“It was an ugly game, there’s no doubt about it,” Bennett said. “We played extremely hard, we didn’t play extremely smart. We found a way to win and that is what is important.”
The Huskies overcame the bundle of first half turnovers to lead 33-29 at the break, in part thanks to 13-of-25 shooting (52 percent).
“We knew going in at halftime we were not doing things well, and we felt good… because we knew we could take care of the ball better,” Bennett said. “We knew our defense wasn’t playing well, and we knew we could play better.”
The Huskies took better care of the ball in the second, committing only eight turnovers. Sadie Webb led WIU in scoring with 16. Valencia Kelly added 13 points for the Leathernecks.
Northern Illinois returns to action Friday night at Southern Illinois.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.