With less than 30 seconds left in the game, Northern Illinois (8-12, 4-6 MAC) carried a three-point lead over Akron (13-8, 7-3 MAC).
But an NIU foul called in the shooting motion of a successful three-point basket, followed by two made free throws, lifted the Zips over the Huskies with 18 seconds left and lifted Akron, 71-67.
Four NIU players reached double-figures in scoring, led by Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) who accumulated 13 points with 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.
“We had our opportunities to win this game and we did not capitalize on the chances we had,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “It never comes down to just one play. We missed our share of free throws. We definitely played to win this game tonight against a good team in Akron but we have to control what we can control.”
The Huskies asserted their defensive prowess on Akron in the first half as they held the volatile Zips offense to only 20 in the period, its lowest output of the season. UA, who entered the game 14th in the NCAA in scoring, would go on to score 51 points in the second half.
Northern Illinois attacked the paint with Thorp as she scored 10 points in the opening stanza and was only one rebound shy of a double-double in the period. The scoring distribution in the half was even as seven other NIU players recorded field goals in the frame.
Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) and Jazmine Harris (West Allis, Wis./Heritage Christian) were large contributors for Northern Illinois in the second half as they grabbed key rebounds and were able to draw fouls against Akron players.
Augusta was 7-of-9 from the charity stripe and finished the night with nine points and eight rebounds, while Harris scored 12 points and accounted for six rebounds in 13 minutes on the floor.
“We needed our bigs to attack tonight and not be afraid to shoot the ball and they did that,” added Bennett.
The Huskies built a 13 point lead in the early goings of the second frame but Akron flexed its offensive muscle in the game as Rachel Tecca led the Zips with 23 points, followed by a 19 and 17 point efforts by Carly young and Hanna Luburgh, respectively.
Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) and Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) also scored in double figures, reaching marks of 12 and 11, respectively. The Huskies out rebounded the Zips in the contest, 42-39. NIU is now 8-2 when it out rebounds its opponents.
Both teams were a combined 30-of-47 from the free throw line at the Convocation Center tonight. In the final 10 minutes of the game, Northern Illinois and Akron tied and swapped the lead five times.
The Huskies will return to action Sunday afternoon for a 1 p.m. contest with Ball State. The game will serve as a double-header and will be NIU’s annual “Pink” game. All fans wearing pink to the game will receive $3 admission to the contest.