Behind a strong performance in Amanda Corral’s (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) return from an ankle injury, the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team earned its first home win of the season in a 67-63 decision over Loyola.
The Huskies (3-3) received a boost with a season-high 19 points from Corral to beat Loyola (3-3) for the third time in the last four games.
“It shouldn’t have been as close as it was,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett. “We missed a lot of shots in the second half. The defensive stands we made when we got about four defensive stops at the end of the game were the difference. We needed to get a home win and it feels good.”
Showing no ill-effects from a left ankle sprain that sidelined Corral for most of the South Dakota State game and the whole Bradley game, the sophomore scored 15 of her points in the first half as NIU ended the half on a 20-5 run over the final 6:14 to take a 42-32 lead. Corral opened the game with a three-pointer and was in rhythm right away, going 6-for-8 from the field in the half.
After a 60.7 percent shooting performance in the first half, NIU cooled down drastically to start the second, missing its first seven shots while Loyola made five of its first six. Over the first 11 minutes of play in the second half, the Ramblers went on a 22-6 run to take a 54-48 lead with 8:43 left.
Needing a basket in the worst way, Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) answered with a leaning jumper in the paint and was fouled. She made the free throw to get NIU within three, 54-51, and the Huskies started feeling it again.
Following a defensive stop, Satavia Taylor (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook/Loyola), who had 11 points against her former teammates, nailed a jumper from the corner to cut it to one. After another defensive stop, McKenzie Hoelmenn (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North) scored in the post to put NIU on top again, 55-54, with 6:55 remaining.
The Ramblers answered two possessions later with a bucket, but a three-pointer with the shot clock expiring by Ashley Sneed (Harvery, Ill./Thornton) put the Huskies ahead for good on the next possession. The defensive then took over, forcing three turnovers and four missed shots over the final five minutes.
When Loyola made a three and a jumper with under 20 seconds left and fouled NIU, Corral had the answer both times to keep it a two-possession game as she went 4-for-4 on free throws during the span to seal it.
NIU improved to 13-7 in the all-time series over Loyola and 9-1 in DeKalb. The win also avenged NIU’s season opening 31-points loss at Loyola last year. The Huskies are now 3-0 when leading at halftime.
Next up for the Huskies is a two-game road swing starting at Indiana State at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.