The win was the first for ISU (5-2) over NIU (3-4) in the last four games in the series as the Sycamores notched their fifth straight home win.
The Sycamores’ streak dates back to last season as they are now 4-0 at home in 2012-13 and 25-8 overall in three years under head coach Teri Moren, who is 29-3 when holding opponents under 61 points. Dropping to 1-3 on the road, NIU struggled to handle the ball against a 3-2 zone that was frequently employed by ISU, forcing a season-high 26 turnovers by the Huskies – 19 of which were steals by ISU.
“I was really disappointed with our guard play and how loose they were with the ball and the tunnel vision they had against that 3-2 zone,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett. “It was frustrating. Amanda (Corral) kept us in the ball game. We have a lot to work on and we’ll work as hard as we can to get it going.”
Turnovers weren’t the only thing that cost NIU as ISU controlled the paint.
The Sycamores had a 12-5 advantage in offensive rebounds which led to an 11-3 edge in second chance points. They also held a 32-14 discrepancy in points in the paint, the most points NIU has surrendered in the paint all season.
Most of the damage on the glass was done by ISU’s Racheal Mahan, who had 17 rebounds, seven offensive, and 12 points. Then down the stretch, ISU sealed the game at the free throw line as Taylor Whitley went 6-for-8 and Anna Munn went a perfect 10-for-10. ISU went only 1-for-2 from the stripe but went 16-for-24 in the second half.
NIU put together a decent shooting performance but turnovers and control of the offensive glass were too much to overcome. The Huskies shot 43.9 percent from the field overall, 5-for-12 from the three-point line, and 11-for-12 from the free throw line. Corral led the way scoring 15 of her 19 points in the second half. It’s the second straight game she has scored 19, two shy of tying her career high, since missing most of two games with an ankle injury. She also added three rebounds and three assists without committing a turnover.
The Huskies started the game strong defensively, forcing ISU to miss its first seven shots. Meanwhile, NIU made shots on four of its first five possessions to take an early 9-4 lead. After an 11-2 Sycamores run thanks to five offensive rebounds and six second chance points, NIU forced six ISU turnovers to take a 19-13 lead with 6:59 left. However, ISU ended the half on a 10-3 run with help from five NIU turnovers to grab a 23-22 lead.
Just like the first half, the Huskies started the second strong as well. In each team’s first four possessions, NIU seized the momentum scoring on three of its first four and forcing two turnovers and two missed shots to hand ISU four empty trips. The 7-0 run led to a 29-23 NIU lead with 17:40 left.
ISU climbed within two points a few minutes later, but Corral answered with a step-back three to put NIU up 34-29 to end a three-minute scoreless stretch. After forcing another missed shot, NIU took its largest lead of the game on the next possession as Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) hit two free throws to make it a 36-39 game with 12:38 left.
It seemed like NIU was poised to get a rare win at Hulman Center but ISU went to its 3-2 zone again to force seven Huskie turnovers during a 13-0 run that gave the Sycamores a 45-38 lead with 5:50 remaining. The run started with a three-point play and included ISU’s only three-pointer of the game.
NIU got within one point, 46-45 with 4:32 left, after a three and two free throws from Corral. But, moments later, a costly substitution error in which NIU had six players on the court led to a pair of ISU made free throws and a floater in the lane that put the Sycamores up 52-45. NIU then never got closer than four points the rest of the way as ISU went 6-for-6 from the free throw line down the stretch.
NIU has an 11-day layoff due to finals week before its next game at DePaul on Dec. 15 in Chicago.
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