In a game that saw 13 lead changes in the contest with both teams running a fast paced offense, the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team fell to New Mexico State, 77-72, in the opening game of the Aggie Hotel Encanto Thanksgiving Classic.
The Huskies fall to 2-3 on the year while the Aggies even their record to 3-3 this season.
“Offensively we had some good looks. We didn’t make a lot of shots that we needed to, but I’m disappointed because I thought we were ready for this game,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “We have to get back to playing defense and we have to do that together as a team. We can miss shots if we play defense the way we’re supposed to play it.”
NIU and New Mexico State ran up and down the floor trading baskets for most of the game. Down the stretch, the Aggies held a two possession lead in the game with 2:37 remaining in the game. It was around that time that Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) solidified her third double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
As NMSU worked fast to score, the Huskies worked patiently for the right shots and found themselves at the free throw line or taking an uncontested layup. Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) led NIU at the line, going 5-of-6 in the game to finish with 15 points. With 17 seconds left and the Huskies trailing 73-71, Corral made a remarkable steal underneath the NIU basket but with two defenders around her, she was unable to convert a layup to tie the contest.
The 3,900 foot elevation in Las Cruces did not affect the Huskies as their lungs were primed for the altitude as the two teams traded baskets and exchanged the lead 10 times in the first 20 minutes of action. The final lead change of the half resulted on a three point shot by sophomore Alexis Lindstrom (Howards Grove, Wis./Howards Grove) with 35 seconds left in the stanza to give the Huskies a 35-33 lead at the end of the half.
Junior Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) jump-started the Huskies in the game as she made Northern Illinois’ first three baskets of the game, including a three pointer with the first shot of the game. She would finish the half with nine points as NIU’s leading scorer. Not only was Pulliam a dangerous shooter, she also created for NIU on the pass, dishing four helpers in the half.
While the Huskies took their share of the leads, they also found themselves trailing by three at the final three media timeouts. NIU’s fortunes turned after the final timeout as the team outshot the Aggies, 3-1, including Lindstrom’s final three point basket.
The Huskies sunk more shots than the Aggies in the contest, 30-29, but the perimeter game of New Mexico State proved strong as it pulled up anywhere it felt was a good shot, outshooting Northern Illinois, 8-4.
Pulliam tied her career-high scoring mark of 15 points in the game and finished with four assists and two steals. Nine different Huskie players scored in the contest, with only one player being held scoreless in the contest.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.