The Northern Illinois University women’s basketball team suffered a 60-49 setback to Lewis University in an exhibition affair at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon.
“Lewis is a top-four team in Division II,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett. “They have knocked off now, two or three Division I programs and they’re very good. They’re guards are the most poised guards I’ve seen. They run they’re stuff and they don’t get rattled.”
Paced by junior guard Jamie Johnson’s 20 points, the Lewis Flyers shot 44.8 percent from the field for the game. Flyer forward Jess Reinhart also finished in double figures with a double-double, tallying 13 points and 11 rebounds.
NIU’s defense played well at times, but could not play consistently throughout the contest. After allowing the Flyers to shoot a blistering 61.5 percent from the field in the first half, the Huskies made some adjustments at halftime and cut that number in half in the second frame, holding Lewis to 31.3 percent shooting in the second half. The Huskies forced 19 Flyer turnovers, however, they were only able to convert them into 14 points.
“Our defense was very inconsistent,” Bennett said. “The first half, I didn’t like it. I thought in the second half there were spurts where it was really good and then we would break down. I think it’s a work in progress and I think there’s a lot of potential there, but it was just very spurty.
“Lewis is a team that is hard [to defend], because they fly down the floor and they get transition baskets. They really spread the floor so you have to be on top of your game.”
After Lewis opened up a 10-6 lead with 15:22 left in the first half, the Huskies battled back with a 10-2 run to go up 16-12 with 11:09 left in the half. However, the Flyers responded with an 18-2 run to take a 12-point lead with 4:52 left in the first half and went into halftime with a 37-24 advantage.
Lewis built up a 17 point-lead, 44-27, in the opening minutes of the second half and the Huskies were unable to recover. NIU did make a bit of a run in the middle of the second half. Trailing 48-31 with 14:06 left to play, the Huskies rattled off six unanswered to cut the deficit to 11 points with 9:05 left in the game. Unfortunately for NIU, Lewis regained control of the game.
NIU did pull to within 10, 57-47, with 3:53 left in the contest, but could never pull to within single digits.
“I thought there was a moment in the second half where we had a couple consecutive offensive possessions where we started to play and started to stack it with some defensive possessions,” she said. “I thought we had spurts that were really good. If we could play a game within those spurts, we’re going to be a good team. We’re just out of sync.”
Senior Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) led the way for the Huskies, shooting five-of-11 from the field for 12 points and grabbing five rebounds. Pulliam was active on defense, with two steals and five defensive boards. Freshman Kelly Smith (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) finished with nine points, while sophomore Ally Lehman (Nineveh, Ind./Indian Creek) and freshman Renee Sladek (Merrill, Wis./Merrill) each finished with eight points.
The Huskies return to action Friday, Nov. 14, when NIU plays host to in-state rival Illinois State at the Convocation Center. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. CT and fans can watch the game live on ESPN3.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.