Led by Alexis Lindstrom’s (Howards Grove, Wis./Howards Grove) Mid-American Conference Tournament record nine three-point field goals and 31 points, the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team (11-18) punched its ticket to Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena as it defeated Eastern Michigan (17-13) in overtime, 81-76, to secure a second round berth.
Lindstrom, who entered the game zero for her last six behind the three-point line, could not miss at EMU as she was 9-for-11 behind the arc and 11-for-14 from the field. Junior Natecia Augusta (Peoria, Ill./Limestone) complimented Lindstrom as she set career-highs with a 10-for-16 performance from the field with 24 points.
“What Alexis did was crazy good. She really had such poise down the stretch and wanted the ball in her hands. She was amazing,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “In the first half she kept us in it. In the second half she won it for us.”
The Huskies lost at Eastern Michigan, 54-45, on March 2 as they were shutdown by the Eagles 2-3 zone. Only eight days removed from that performance, Northern Illinois had one of its best shooting nights of the season (30-for-56) and scored a season-high 81 points.
“We really worked to try and find better shots and it helps when you shoot the ball well. For Alexis to do what she did, that changes everything and it was a great job. They switched it, up taking away the middle from time to time and Natecia did a great job to make some incredible catches,” Bennett said.
It was the first time all season the Huskies had two players with 20-or-more points in a game.
The first half was a shooting contest as each team shot over 58 percent from the field. In the period, each team made 14 field goals. Northern Illinois was electric behind the three-point line as it was 6-of-7 behind the arc — led by a 4-of-5 performance by Lindstrom, who finished the half with 14 points. As a team, NIU was 14-of-23 (.609), its best shooting percentage in a half this season.
Lindstrom filled the spot of Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) in the lineup, who recorded her second foul with 10:49 remaining in the first half, sitting out the rest of frame. Lindstrom began hitting shots under pressure, including one to tie the game, 33-33, as the buzzer sounded and with a hand in her face. She hit her last shot of the period to bring NIU back within two points, 38-36, with 33 seconds left until halftime, where the score ended after 20 minutes.
Corral remained on the bench for most of the second on half as she quickly racked up her third and fourth fouls of the game. With Corral on the bench and Lindstrom locked up for the moment by the Eagles, Augusta filled the scoring void for NIU.
After accounting for eight points in the first half, Augusta scored 16 points in the second half on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 2-for-3 on old-fashioned, three-point plays in the second half.
While Lindstrom scored nine points in the second period, Corral entered back into the game and scored five points to compliment the the two Huskies and reach double figures in the game.
NIU had the last chance at the victory in regulation as it got a defensive stop and called a timeout on its side of the floor with 20 seconds left. Back-to-back turnovers by the Huskies and Eagles in the waning time led to a stalemate and overtime, 68-68.
In overtime, it was the Lindstrom show as she was 3-for-3 from the field, including two shots beyond the arc – accounting for all of the Huskies field goals in the period. Both Corral and Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) each made two free throws in the period to extend the NIU lead to five in the period.
The Huskies were 30-of-56 as a team from the field (.536) and out rebounded the Eagles, 35-34. Northern Illinois also set a postseason record for assists in a game as they recorded 24 assists on 30 field goals. NIU is now 2-0 in overtime this season.
Augusta and Thorp each had eight rebounds in the effort. Thorp and Ally Lehman (Nineveh, Ind./Indian Creek) each had five assists.
Northern Illinois will take on Ball State in the second round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Wednesday, March 12. Tipoff at Quickens Loans Arena is set for 11 a.m. Central.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.