A 17-4 second half run by Northern Illinois closed a 16-point Western Michigan gap to three points with 5:33 left but the Huskies were unable to get all the way over the hump.
With help from a 51.9 shooting percent in the second half, the Broncos hung on for a 54-51 win Wednesday night at the Convocation Center in a Mid-American Conference West Division contest.
“I thought we had tremendous fight down the stretch,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett. “I think we outscored them 17-4 in that run in the second half. It was just how we started the second half, getting down 12. How we start and how we finish are things we can do a better job at.”
Two runs proved to be the difference for the Broncos (6-12, 2-3 MAC), one in each half. After both teams opened the first 6:30 of the game a combined 2-for-15, WMU erased what was once a five-point NIU (5-13, 0-5 MAC) lead with an 11-3 run over the final 5:25 of the first half. It was an 11-0 run until Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) connected on her only three of the night with 57 seconds left to cut the Bronco halftime lead to 22-16. Both teams shot under 31 percent in the first half, but heated up in the second.
In the first seven minutes of the second half, another WMU run put NIU in a hole. The Broncos outscored the Huskies 19-9 to build their largest lead of the game, 41-25, with 13:05 left.
However, NIU countered behind Satavia Taylor (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook/Loyola), who scored 12 of her game-high 18 points in the second stanza. Taylor ignited the 17-4 Huskie run over the game’s next seven minutes, scoring eight during the spurt. She started it with back-to-back jumpers from the elbow and then drove for a layup a few minutes later. She also capped the run with another jumper to bring NIU closest to WMU since the 4:36 mark of the first half.
After WMU converted on only one of two free throw attempts, McKenzie Hoelmenn (Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North) scrapped an offensive rebound and laid it in to make it a 46-44 Bronco lead with 4:41 remaining. However, two straight scores from WMU pushed the lead back to six.
Hoelmenn came through again with two free throws and Corral added a floater off the glass to cut it to two once again, this time with 1:48 left. But the Huskies did not get the defensive stops they needed down the stretch as a last-second three by Ashley Sneed (Harvey, Ill./Thornton) cut a six-point win for the Broncos to a three-point win.
“For the most part our energy was pretty phenomenal,” Bennett said. “We played pretty hard. We have to get something inside. Our posts need to finish shots. If we could get some inside scores early on that could open up the rest of the offense.”
The Huskies stay at home for their next game, a 3 p.m. CT contest Saturday, Jan. 26, against preseason MAC favorite Toledo.