Northern Illinois fought to the last second Wednesday night but Kent State women’s basketball’s home court advantage proved too much to overcome, as the Huskies fell 56-54 to the Golden Flashes.
Down two points with 10.4 seconds left, freshman Danielle Pulliam brought the ball past heavy KSU pressure into the front court, but was whistled for a travel with 1.8 seconds left.
On the ensuing inbounds, Pulliam deflected the ball off Kent State’s Stephanie Gibson and out of bounds, leaving 1.2 seconds on the clock. The Huskies got the ball in to Marke Freeman, but she was unable to get a shot past three Kent State defenders before time expired.
“We played very hard, passionately, and believed in everything,” NIU head coach Kathi Bennett said. “(Our players) really had faith that we could do it.”
NIU sent the game to overtime despite committing 26 turnovers in regulation. The Huskies had five more in the extra period. Kent State capitalized, scoring 23 points off NIU miscues.
“I don’t know if I have heard of a team having 31 turnovers and losing in overtime to the number one team in the conference,” Bennett said.
Kent State improved to 15-4 overall and 6-1 in MAC play. Its sits alone at the top of East Division, and holds a one game lead and the tiebreaker over defending league champion Bowling Green. NIU fell to 8-12 under the first year of Bennett’s tutelage. The Huskies are 2-5 in MAC contests heading into a game Saturday at Ohio.
The back-and-forth affair saw 11 ties and 10 lead changes, with neither team leading by more than seven points. The Huskies led by two on a jumper by Freeman with 1:01 left in overtime. Kent State’s Tayler Stanton put back a miss by Taisja Jones to tie the game and one play later Jones hit a lay-up for the last points of the game.
Jones scored 36 of her team’s 56 points. She went to the line 16 times, making 13, and hit 10-of-20 attempts from the field. She added six rebounds and six steals. Jones also drew a crucial fifth foul on Courtney Shelton with 1:10 left in regulation, leaving the Huskies without their third-leading scorer and team captain for the last 6:10.
NIU trailed by four at halftime, but opened the second with a 9-0 run and led by six with 15:15 left. The Huskies trailed to the MAC’s best team for only 1:43 of the second half.
The Huskies put out another stellar defensive performance, holding Kent State to only 31.7 percent shooting from the field. NIU shot 52.5 percent from the game, but couldn’t overcome the season-high turnover total.
NIU tops off against the Bobcats at 1 p.m. (CST) Saturday, Jan. 29. Ohio is 2-5 in the MAC and 6-14 overall.