After leading halfway through the first period, the NIU women’s basketball team (1-1) played a well-fought game at UIC (2-0) but lost to the Flames, 61-47.
Freshman Renee Sladek (Merrill, Wis./Merrill) finished with 14 points and four rebounds in the effort to lead the Huskies in scoring. UIC’s Ruvanna Campbell had 15 points, 23 boards and eight assists.
NIU finished the night 14-of-18 from the free throw line, marking the second-straight game the Huskies have made at least 10 free throws.
“UIC is an incredibly talented and athletic team and they shot the ball very well. They did a great job of getting the rebounds or the putbacks tonight,” head coach Kathi Bennett said. “If we could’ve made a few more shots in the first half, it would’ve put more pressure on (UIC) and it might’ve been a different game.”
NIU struck first blood as Sladek converted a layup and was fouled on the way up, adding one more point from the free throw line. After UIC went on a 9-0 run, the Huskies went on 10-3 run of its own to take a 13-12 lead with 10:54 remaining in the first half.
The Flames ended the first half with a shooting percentage of .467, converting 14-of-30 shots taken to lead after the opening period, 30-22. NIU was 5-of-6 from the free throw line and worked UIC for nine personal fouls in the half, as well as eight turnovers. Sladek finished the half with nine points and three rebounds, going 3-for-4 from the field.
UIC came out as the aggressor in the second half, building a 19-point lead with 8:37 left in the stanza.
The Huskies didn’t hang their heads down, however, as they battled back to within nine points after the final media timeout with 3:16 left as Kelly Smith (Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead) and Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) each hit two free throws after a foul and a technical foul, followed by an Ally Lehman (Nineveh, Ind./Indian Creek) layup for a six-point swing on the same possession.
Sladek led NIU with 14 points as she was 5-for-8 from the field and 4-for-5 from the free throw line. Smith followed in Sladek’s double-figure footsteps as she finished with 10 points, including two baskets from behind the arc.
Pulliam and Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) led the Huskies in rebounds with five apiece.
Off the bench, Amber Gray (Mukwonago, Wis./Mukwonago) was 3-for-4 from the field with a career-high six points, grabbing two rebounds and distributing two assists, also a career-high, in 21 minutes.
As a team, the Flames were 25-for-55 (.436) shooting with four three-point field goals and nine free throws. While only six different players scored for UIC, four those players scored 10-or-more points led by Campbell’s 15.
The Huskies will return to action at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20, as they host Valparaiso at the NIU Convocation Center. The game is a doubleheader with the men’s team, who will host Idaho at 8 p.m.
For more information on NIU women’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.