The Northern Illinois women’s basketball team played with fire offensively and defensively Wednesday as it shot .412 from the field (21-of-51) and created 15 turnovers.
But Ball State (13-15, 8-9 MAC) went 11-of-26 behind the three-point line to defeat the Huskies (9-18, 5-12 MAC) 67-57 at Worthen Arena.
Three different NIU players reached double-figures with Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) pacing the squad with 14 points. Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) and Jazmine Harris (West Allis, Wis./Heritage Christian) also scored in double digits with 12 and 10, respectively.
The Huskies also out-rebounded the Cardinals, 34-25.
Ball State’s Brittany Carter led the game with 23 points, shooting 8-of-12 from the field and 6-of-10 from behind the arc.
“I felt like we played so hard. I credit this team because we don’t quit and we keep fighting,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “We had opportunity after opportunity but the unforced turnovers and not taking open shots hurt us. We’re right there defensively and we’re playing extremely hard. Outside of one fast break by Ball State, where we weren’t matched up, (Ball State) shot lights out in this game. We have to give them credit tonight.”
Each team traded runs to increase spreads and close up the gaps throughout the game, which ultimately told the tale of the game. The Huskies were the games aggressor in the opening nine minutes as they led for most of that time, leading by as much as four points. BSU overtook the Huskies with 10:19 remaining in the period, jumping out to a seven point lead only a minute later, 17-10.
Northern Illinois battled back to within one point three times in the final nine minutes of the game, but another 7-0 run by the Cardinals in the closing minute put Ball State on top of Northern Illinois at halftime, 35-27. Cardinal Brandy Woody sunk a layup at the buzzer sounded to close the stanza and increase BSU’s lead.
Harris and Thorp were a force for the Huskies as they accounted for 10 and nine points in the half, respectively. Thorp did not miss a single shot taken from the field as she was 4-for-4, including 1-of-1 from behind the three-point line. Harris closed the period 3-of-6 from the field and 4-of-6 from the charity stripe, including four in a row.
A three-pointer by Carter put BSU up by 11 points 11 ticks into the second half. However, home state players Ally Lehman (Nineveh, Ind./Indian Creek) and Pulliam nailed back-to-back layups and a trey to lift NIU back within two points with 16:01 remaining, 40-38.
BSU tried to pull away from NIU over the next three minutes but Northern Illinois again brought it back to within three with 13:17 left, 45-42, on a layup by the Huskies third Hoosier State starter, Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart).
The Cardinals built a 15 point lead in the frame and carried a double digit lead until NIU began to mount a final charge with 2:14 left. At that time, Thorp hit two free throws and her second three-point basket 33 seconds later to bring the Huskies back within eight points.
Northern Illinois was 11-for-14 (.786) from the free throw line, 21-for-51 (.412) from the field in the contest and was +9 in rebounds on the Cardinals with a 34-25 mark.
The Huskies, currently in ninth place in the Mid-American Conference standings, will close the regular season Saturday, March 8, against Western Michigan in the first game of a doubleheader at the NIU Convocation Center. Tipoff between the Huskies and the Broncos will begin at 1 p.m.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.