Marke Freeman scored 23 points and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds, helping the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team defeat Ohio, 56-48, Saturday.
NIU improved to 9-12 overall and 3-5 in Mid-American Conference play. The Huskies have won three of their last four games. Ohio fell to 6-15, 1-7 in league games.
“We played to our gameplan,” NIU head coach Kathi Bennett said. “We won it with team play and defense.”
With the Huskies trailing 11-6, Freeman scored seven points and Courtney Shelton added a three-pointer as part of a 10-0 run that put NIU up by five. The Huskies carried that margin into the locker room, leading 25-20 at the break.
“Midway through the first half (Freeman) found a rhythm,” Bennett said.
Out of halftime, NIU’s defense smothered the Bobcats, allowing only one field goal over the first 10:10 of the period. During that timeframe, NIU outscored Ohio 17-4 to take a 42-24 lead, their largest of the game.
“We really built our lead with team play,” Bennett said.
Freeman tallied nine points, and Ebony Ellis scored four of her eight points during the stretch.
“(Ebony) had a couple of nice moves we are going to build on,” Bennett said. “She played a great defensive game.”
With the Huskies leading by nine and under six minutes left, Shelton and Brittney Callahan knocked down three-pointers to counter treys back-to-back triples from Ohio. The timely threes kept NIU’s lead in double-figures down the stretch, forcing the Bobcats to take their chances sending Northern Illinois to the free throw line. The Huskies hit 6-of-10 free throws in the last 1:22, enough to hold off the Bobcats.
Freeman’s 17 boards are the fifth-most by any player in the Mid-American Conference this season. Behind her effort on the glass, the Huskie outrebounded their opponent for the seventh game in a row.
“(Freeman) plays so hard, has such a competitiveness in her, you have to respect it,” Bennett said. “Seventeen boards is crazy. That’s phenomenal.”
The Huskies held Ohio to just 25.9 percent shooting, the lowest percentage of any NIU opponent this season. Northern Illinois’ offense was efficient, hitting 20-of-44 shots (45.5 percent) from the field
NIU returns to action, Tuesday, Feb. 1, when it hosts defending MAC champion Bowling Green at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center.