Trailing the entire first half, Northern Illinois rallied back in the second half to earn its first road victory of the Mid-American Conference season Saturday at Miami, 69-66. NIU (7-8, 3-2 MAC) posted 42 points in the second half, 11 of which came from Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) who closed the game with 24 points. The Redhawks fall to 5-11 overall and 1-4 in the MAC.
“It feels good to get this win. It’s a good win that really shows our character,” said Head Coach Kathi Bennett on the post game radio show. “We played really good defensively in the second half and we got stops when we needed them. We came out hungry and we showed a lot of growth through our hunger. The way we held on to the ball in the second half was impressive. We committed one turnover and that was only when Amanda slipped. We overcame their half court press very well.”
Northern Illinois had its offensive rhythm disrupted by Miami in the opening half, but the Huskies defense answered the call as it only allowed the Redhawks to make nine field goals in the period.
In the twilight of the first half, the Huskies gained some traction heading into halftime as it went on a 7-2 run to decrease its deficit to five points, 32-27. NIU committed 12 turnovers in the half. Corral ended the period with 13 points, shooting 4-of-8 from the field and 2-of-3 from behind the arc. She was also a flawless 2-for-2 at the free throw line.
Junior Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) grabbed three big rebounds in the half and asserted herself in the second, finishing the game with seven total rebounds, five on the offensive glass. Thorp is now averaging nine rebounds in the last three games
The Huskies carried the momentum gained from the end of the first into the second as it stormed back and took their first lead of the game with 13:42 remaining as Jazmine Harris (West Allis, Wis./Heritage Christian) made two free throws to push NIU over Miami, 40-39.
From there, the two teams traded blows in true heavyweight boxing fashion as the lead changed seven times in the second half. While the Redhawks only shot .354 (17-of-48) from the field, Miami was 8-of-18 (.444) from behind the arc and 24-for-30 (.800) at the free throw line.
Three-point shots proved helpful for the Huskies late in the game as Corral nailed one with 11:52 remaining that put NIU back up by two points, 45-43. However, the biggest dagger in the Redhawks heart came from Thorp, who drained a three point basket on an inbound pass from Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) with only four seconds remaining on the shot clock to put Northern Illinois back on top, 66-61, with 39 seconds left in the game.
“I told Danny, I don’t want to think, I’m just going to shoot it,” said Thorp after the game.
Thorp finished the game with eight points, two blocks, two assists and seven rebounds on the night. The junior had only attempted one three-point shot this season and is now 1-of-2 for the season. Pulliam added 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists. She was one rebound shy of her first career double-double. Corral shot 8-of-17 (.470) from the field and was 4-of-6 behind the arc.
Freshman Ally Lehman (Nineveh, Ind./Indian Creek) scored 11 points in the game, tying her career-high on a free throw with 0.3 seconds left. Prior to Lehman going to the line, MU’s Hannah Robertson drained a three-pointer with just over a second left. NIU then inbounded the ball to Lehman, who got tangled up with Miami defender Haley Robertson.
As the final horn sounded in the game, a whistle blew before the horn sounded. After a five minute delay for official review, it was determined that Lehman was fouled. Following her trip to the line, Miami was unable to get a final shot off as the Huskies won their first conference road game, 69-66.
Northern Illinois finished the game shooting 23-of-57 (.404) from the field and outrebounded the Redhawks, 37-35, while also blocking a season-high six shots in the game. Junior Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) scored four points in the game but blocked a career-high three shots to lead NIU.
NIU will return to the court Thursday, January 23 when it hosts Buffalo at the NIU Convocation Center. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. with the Bulls.