For a moment, it looked like Courtney Shelton’s perfect night of 6-for-6 shooting and a career-high 18 points would not be enough to give the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team a win at Southern Illinois.
Then, with the Huskies trailing 45-43 and 1.8 seconds on the clock, Shelton hit a half-court buzzer beater to push NIU past their rivals to the south, 46-45. The Huskies were forced to set-up the game-winning play after Charnise Mitchell nailed a go-ahead lay-up to put the Salukis on top for the first time in the second half.
“A three wins it,” NIU head coach Kathi Bennett said during the ensuing timeout. She then drew up a play that had Shelton inbounding the ball because of her strong arm. Shelton reminded Bennett that teammate Kim Davis could also throw the ball deep, and Bennett rearranged the play for Shelton.
Davis rifled the ball to Shelton, who turned and launched the game-winner from 40-feet out, her fifth three-pointer of the day.
“There’s a belief,” Bennett said. “We don’t quit until the final horn.”
The Huskies improved to 3-1, tying the best start by a first-year head coach in NIU history.
“They believed they could still win,” Bennett said. “We’re starting to really believe in each other and trust each other.”
Apart from the beautiful finish, the game was an ugly affair. Northern Illinois shot 30.8 percent from the field, but played solid defense. SIU only managed 43.9 percent shooting, with 20 turnovers. Shelton’s 21 led all scorers. Ellis chipped in nine points with nine boards, while Shaakira Haywood contributed seven.
The Salukis fell to 0-3 with the loss. Teri Oliver led SIU with 11 points and five assists. Sindey Goins added seven, and Mitchell and CiCi Shannon put in six a-piece.
Northern Illinois wraps up its five-game, season-opening road trip at Temple, Tuesday, Nov. 23.