Entering Wednesday night’s game, the NIU women’s basketball team had lost nine straight to Bowling Green and five straight at Anderson Arena.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, it was new place, same result.
NIU fell 57-47 in its first game at the new Stroh Center in a Mid-American Conference cross-divisional match-up.
The Huskies (9-12, 3-6 MAC) came into the game having won three of their last four, including two straight, but got off to a costly slow start as the Falcons (19-3, 9-0 MAC) grabbed control of the game and never let go.
Bowling Green, who was without head coach Curt Miller after he suffered a mild stroke late in the team’s 70-54 win over Eastern Michigan on Jan. 22, opened the game on 13-4 run through the first eight minutes under associate head coach Jennifer Roos.
NIU responded with an 8-2 run over next six minutes to pull within three points, 15-12, after a Claire Jakubicek (Cary, Ill./Cary-Grove) layup. But the Falcons pushed into the locker room with a 9-0 run thanks to seven NIU turnovers over the final six minutes of the half.
The miscues proved costly as BGSU only had five turnovers to NIU’s 15, which led to a 15-3 discrepancy in points off turnovers and a 10-0 difference in fast break points. For the game, the Huskies had 20 turnovers to the Falcons’ nine. Overall, BGSU owned a 23-6 advantage in points off turnovers and 15-4 edge in fast break points.
“They were really smart,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett. “I felt like they took us out of everything and I felt we didn’t attack. We weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be in the first half.
“We didn’t take care of the ball in the first half. Against a team like Bowling Green, there’s no way to win when you do that. They are very disciplined. I’m proud of our team’s second half performance. We never gave up and kept fighting.”
Facing a 24-12 halftime deficit, NIU stormed out to a quick 5-0 run to force a Falcon timeout as Courtney Shelton (Rockford, Ill./Hononegah) nailed a three and Kim Davis (Evanston, Ill./Evanston) turned a steal into a fast break layup.
After the timeout, the Huskies kept pushing as Jakubicek hit a pair of free throws to cut the disadvantage to five, 24-19. Following a Falcon basket, Jakubicek scored in the paint to keep the deficit at five but a Jasmine Matthews three would kill the NIU momentum and pushed the lead to eight, 29-21. NIU would never get back within five the rest of the way.
A few minutes later, the Falcons used a 7-0 spurt to take their largest lead of the game, 44-29, with 10:20 left.
Defensively, the Huskies held their own as Bowling Green shot just 38.2 percent from the field and scored 57 points. Entering the game, the Falcons were averaging 67.7 points per game and were shooting 40.0 percent. But the NIU offense only managed to score 47 points on a defense that was averaging 55.2 points surrendered per game.
Jakubicek led all scorers with 17 points and extended her consecutive free throws made streak to 30. Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) also scored in double figures with 12 points.
The Huskies return home for their last home contest against the MAC East with a 3 p.m. game against Ohio on Saturday, Feb. 4, at the NIU Convocation Center.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.