Earning its first Mid-American Conference opening day win since January 2009, Northern Illinois dominated its way to victory against Ohio at the Convocation Center, 73-51.
The Huskies (5-6, 1-0 MAC) shot 53.1 percent (26-for-49) from the field Saturday and made 73.3 percent of their shots from the free throw line (22-for-30). In addition, five different NIU players scored in double-digits and its defense only allowed the Bobcats (5-7, 0-1 MAC) to shoot 25 percent from the field.
Redshirt junior Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) paced Northern Illinois with a career-high 17 points and freshman Ally Lehman (Nineveh, Ind./Indian Creek) recorded her first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, all off of the defensive glass.
Other starters to score in double figures were Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) and Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone), who added 12 and 11 points respectively. Freshman Jazmine Harris (West Allis, Wis./Heritage Christian) was the lone player from the bench to score in double digits, dropping 15 points in 18 minutes.
The Huskies last had such a performance Nov. 16, 2011 versus Western Illinois, when NIU had six players score 10-or-more points. Northern Illinois defeated the Leathernecks that evening, 91-84, in double overtime at the NIU Convocation Center.
“We really had great options tonight,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “We worked hard to feed our post players a lot and work the ball high and low. That attack is only going to get better I think as Jenna (Thorp) continues to make outside shots.
“Natecia played great. She was catching the ball in traffic and really allowed herself to get to the line,” continued Bennett. “Ally has such a great feel to the game and her smarts are starting to show. She’s playing a ton of minutes as a freshman and is watching a lot of film so that helps her out.
“Danny was an early scoring option for us and she’s such a great competitor. She was talking to the team throughout the entire game and she brings that energy to the floor. She’s always up. If I had to look at Ohio’s scouting report, I’d say they worked really hard to deny Amanda in the game. She did a good job letting the game to her and then attacking in the second half.”
Ohio managed to capture the lead in the game as it took its only lead of the game at the 5:00 mark. Mariah Byard drained a three point basket to put the Bobcats up, 24-23, but the OU lead was short lived, as Harris converted a layup 45 seconds later to put the Huskies back on top, where they remained for the rest of the game, 25-24.
NIU surpassed the 50 percent mark from the field for the first time this season and last did so against Ohio last season, shooting 59.2 percent on February 6, 2013. While the Huskies shot 48.1 percent in the first half, they nearly surpassed the 60 percent clip in the second frame as NIU was 13-of-22 (.591) from the field.
Northern Illinois was also an impressive 22-for-30 (.733) from the free throw line, marking the first time since February 12, 2012 that the Huskies made 20-or-more shots at the charity stripe. NIU was 23-of-26 (.885) versus EMU.
Defensively, the Huskies were on point, allowing a season-low 51 points against the Bobcats. Northern Illinois stymied Ohio with its constant gap pressure as OU only made 14 of its 56 shots in the game for a field goal percentage of 25 percent. It was the lowest percentage by an NIU opponent since Eastern Illinois on December 19, 2012.
Lehman, who had a group of her former teammates from Indian Creek High School in the stands, became the second different NIU player to record a double-double this season, joining Augusta. It is the fourth-time in 2013-14 an NIU player has recorded such a performance.
Harris’ 15 point performance only came in 18 minutes on the floor, as she was 6-for-8 from the field and 3-for-4 from the line. Pulliam surpassed her season and career-high in the contest, scoring 10 points from the field and converting seven points from the free throw line. She also dished a game high four assists with zero turnovers.
While Augusta was the second Huskie to join double figures, also making seven free throw shots, Corral was the last to score at least 10, shooting 5-of-9 from the field and going 2-for-2 at the charity stripe.
Northern Illinois totaled 28 points in the paint and tabbed 23 points from the bench. The Huskies also scored four points on fast breaks and added 11 points off of turnovers.
NIU will return to action Thursday, Jan. 9, for a brunch matchup with Toledo at 10 a.m. Central. The game will be shown on tape delay on Time Warner Cable Sports. Check local listings. Radio will also be on tape delays. Fans can listen to Andy Garcia on the call, starting at 1 p.m. Central on WLBK 98.9 FM and 1360 AM. The NIUtube stream will be live for fans with a subscription.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.