Down by 17 with over nine minutes left to play in the second half, the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team had a chance to tie it up in the dying seconds of the match as redshirt junior Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) attempted a game tying layup, down 73-71.
The ball swirled around the right side of the basket, kissing the glass, but caromed off the rim to draw the Huskies even in Mid-American Conference play.
NIU is now 5-7 overall and 1-1 in the MAC, while Toledo improved to 1-1 in the league and 6-7 overall.
Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) finished with a game-high 20 points, shooting 9-for-14 from the field, grabbing five rebounds with a block and two steals. Pulliam, who scored an impressive 13 points, ran the point with jaw-dropping precision as she distributed a season-high seven assists with zero turnovers.
“We played very flat in the first half and when I say that I don’t want that to take away from the second half performance, because that was a lot of fun to watch. I’m very proud of how we played in that second half,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “We had a lot of big stops in the second half and we played with a lot of intensity. I wish we would have played with a little bit more in the first half. We have a lot we can take and learn from this game, moving forward with Eastern Michigan on Sunday.”
The Huskies came out hot to start the game as they took a 6-5 lead.
Freshman Ally Lehman (Nineveh, Ind.) nailed two jump shots early on to lead early with four points, but Toledo would then go on a 14-0 run to go ahead 19-6 just before the second media timeout. A Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) three-pointer ended the Rockets run and sparked a change in NIU’s mentality.
While the Huskies trailed 40-26 at the half, it was NIU who ended the first period with the most momentum as it earned five straight-defensive stops to end the period. Toledo was an impressive 17-of-30 from the field in the first stanza, a clip of .567 in the frame. Pulliam and Corral each led the Huskies with six points.
Northern Illinois would start the second half with another three stops on the defensive side of the floor to hold UT scoreless in eight-consecutive possessions.
The Huskies defense remained relentless in the half as it only allowed Toledo to shoot .294 from the field (5-of-17), 27 points below its first period average. Combine that with the fact that NIU shot 18-of-32 (.563) from the field in the second half, Northern Illinois was poised to overcome its deficit in the second half.
With 9:21 remaining in the game and Janelle Reed-Lewis at the free throw line, Toledo went up by 17 points, 63-46. A three-point basket by Alexis Lindstrom (Howards Grove, Wis./Howards Grove) 20 seconds later started a 21-10 closing charge for the Huskies.
Corral scored 14 points in the second half as she attacked on the drive pulled up with her jump shot. She finished with a game-high 20 points and was 9-for-14 from the field. With 3:25 left, she scored her last basket as she drove baseline and vaulted herself over two defenders on the floor to secure a layup and put the Huskies within seven. She converted two more free throws in the game but fouled out shortly thereafter.
Corral fouled Andola Dortch, who still made her shot and the ensuing free throw within under a minute left, 73-68.
Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) returned the three point favor as she was fouled on a layup and made the ensuing free throw to put NIU back within two, 73-71, with 37.1 seconds left.
NIU almost stole the first inbounded pass but pushed the ball out of bounds. On the second inbound, Toledo escaped the foul attempts and were determined to run the clock out and score a dagger basket, however, Reed-Lewis missed the jumper with nine seconds left. Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) snagged the board and moved the ball up the court through Lindstrom and Lehman. Pulliam took the last shot as she drove to her right but was unable to tie the game with the layup as the Huskies fell to 1-1 in the MAC.
NIU will return to action Sunday, Jan. 12, at the Convocation Center when it hosts Eastern Michigan. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.