With a strong rebounding presence and the wherewithal to sink shots when it counted, the Northern Illinois women’s basketball improved to 2-0 in the NIU Convocation Center as it defeated Bradley, 63-60.
The Huskies (2-2) out rebounded the Braves (2-3) in the Nov. 21 contest, 45-43, with 19 on the offensive glass to account for 25 second chance points.
After leading by 17 in the final seven minutes of the game, the Braves clawed back to within three points with two minutes left. The Huskies were clutch as Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock), in her return after suffering an injury in a preseason scrimmage, nailed a shot with 1:31 left to put NIU ahead five, 61-56, and put the pressure on Bradley.
Northern Illinois’ defensive grit led to 12 turnovers for the Braves and held BU’s top-scorer Michelle Young to seven points in the contest. Young went 3-of-14 from the field and entered tonight’s contest averaging 22 points per game, led by a 36 point performance against Illinois in the season-opener.
“We hung on tonight. We did our work in the start of the second half and I thought we had great energy,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “We learned how to win down the stretch tonight. It wasn’t pretty but it doesn’t matter if you win by one or 20. I was happy that we stayed together and the timeouts were positive and that we had the confidence that we were going to win it.”
Appearing in all 40 minutes of the game, Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) scored a game-high 17 points with with five assists and a steal, while Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) recorded her second double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The game moved with a lightning fast pace as both teams traded baskets for the first seven minutes of the game until the first media timeout of the half. With momentum beginning to sway in NIU’s favor before the timeout, the Huskies began to take command after regrouping on the bench as the Huskies took a two possession lead, 17-13, halfway through the first half and eventually went up 24-18 with 7:41 left.
It only took a little over 12 minutes for Corral to reach double-digit scoring for the 40th time in her career in 63 career appearances. The junior guard shot 4-for-12 in the half, going 2-for-5 from behind the arc with two assists. NIU led the Braves at the half, 32-31.
Thorp came up big for Northern Illinois in the contest as she finished with 10 points off the bench and was a vocal presence on the floor to keep the Huskies offense and defense organized.
“To play 19 minutes and have that kind of productivity per minute is nice to see,” said Bennett of Thorp’s play, “it’s nice to see Jenna back in uniform and have her out there. She really ties us together and does the things that people don’t always see. She’s just so smart on the floor. She even hit a big shot with under two minutes to go in the game. It’s a blessing to have her back.”
In the paint, Augusta and Bradley’s post player Aly Spinas-Valainis battled it out for rebounds and points as the two matched up in physical battle for post position throughout the night. Augusta won the rebound battle in the contest as she out rebounded Spinas-Valainis, 12-9, while the BU forward scored 15 points to Augusta’s 10.
The double-double was the Peoria, Ill., native’s second of her career and in as many home games this season. Augusta played for 31 minutes in the contest.
Ball movement was another key to Northern Illinois’ offensive success tonight as the Huskies dished out a season-high 16 assists with Corral pacing NIU with five.
Ashley Sneed (Harvey, Ill./Thornton) and Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) each scored eight points in the contest. Pulliam made her first start since Nov. 30, 2012, versus Loyola after suffering a season-ending injury.
The NIU Huskies will have eight days before their next game as they head Southwest to New Mexico for the Aggie Hotel Encanto Thanksgiving Classic Nov. 29 and 30 to take on New Mexico State and Lamar, respectively.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.