A strong first half performance by Xavier was too much to overcome for Northern Illinois in a 66-54 loss at the 2012 Cavalier Classic on Friday evening at Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena.
The Musketeers (6-6) outscored the Huskies (4-7) 37-30 in the first half, which was enough to withstand NIU’s 34-29 edge in the second.
“The first half shot selection for us was not good,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett. “We did a good job of playing together in the second half. We shared the ball and were strong defensively. I liked the improvement that I saw. We played extremely hard. We just couldn’t get a shot to fall in the first half. We definitely have some positives to take away from this game.”
In the second game of a season long five-game road trip, NIU came out flat on offense which led to an opportunistic first half for Xavier. The Musketeers used a 14-0 run over a four minute span in the middle of the half to grab their largest lead of the game, 31-12, with 4:10 left. The lead was built on solid ball movement on offense, using a size advantage to score in the paint and taking advantage of NIU turnovers.
The Huskies had a hard time staying in front of guard Shatyra Hawkes, who scored 19 points in the game on 8-for-11 shooting. Her play helped Xavier hold 44.4-30.8 shooting percentage, 21-14 rebound, 7-9 turnover, 18-4 points off turnovers and 16-6 points in the paint advantages at the half.
NIU regrouped after the break and played a much better second half, starting with a 9-2 run to cut it to a 10 point deficit with 13:50 left after a driving layup by Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart), who scored 11 points to extend her double figure scoring streak to a career-high six games. After enduring a 9-0 Xavier run, the Huskies again fought back thanks to the play of Ashley Sneed (Harvey, Ill./Thornton) and Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone).
Sneed scored nine of her season-high 13 points in the second half while Augusta poured in 12 of her team-high 14 points in the second half as well, going a perfect 6-for-6 from the field and 2-for-2 from the foul line. Sneed ended the 9-0 run with a driving layup and then back-to-back baskets in the paint by Augusta brought NIU within 13.
A few minutes later, Corral nailed a three from the top of the key and Augusta followed with another score in the post to cut the lead to eight points with 2:53 remaining. But two straight three-point plays by Hawkes ended any hope of a late Huskie comeback.
NIU continues play at the 2012 Cavalier Classic against Norfolk State (2-9) at 3:30 p.m. CT Saturday, Dec. 29. The game will be broadcast live on Huskie All-Access.