Huskies suffer home upset by winless SIUE

Huskies hampered by sluggish offense


Nyla Owens

NIU senior forward A’Jah Davis goes for a layup in the second period of the Huskies’ Nov. 17 game against the Western Illinois University Leathernecks at the NIU Convocation Center. The Huskies posted 12 layups in Saturday’s loss to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Saturday. (Nyla Owens | Northern Star)

By Skyler Kisellus, Sports Reporter

DeKALB – NIU women’s basketball finished Saturday on the sour end of a spoiler after the winless Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Cougars rallied in the second half to upset the 8-1 Huskies in DeKalb.

After being in a frontrunner position for the first 35 minutes of the game, the Huskies saw SIUE pull ahead with just under five minutes to play.

NIU at one point in the third quarter held a 15-point advantage over the Cougars, leading 53-38 with just over a minute left. From there, the Huskies couldn’t land their shots as they went 2-for-911 on field goals for the rest of the game.

“We had opportunities to extend the lead and we weren’t able to do that,” NIU women’s basketball head coach Lisa Carlsen said.

I think we thought we had it figured out.”

— Senior forward A'Jah Davis

By midway through the fourth quarter, NIU’s winning margin had disappeared after SIUE broke off a 17-2 run to tie the game 55-55 with 4:50 left.

NIU failed to get back in front in the final three minutes, leaving the Huskies with their first home loss of the season and preventing them from achieving their best start in 50 years.

Underwhelming offense becomes problematic

NIU’s offense struggled to find ways to score outside of the paint or the free-throw line all game. 40 of NIU’s 60 points were the result of layups or successful free throws. The Huskies also gave up 18 turnovers.

“We should never have that many (turnovers),” junior guard Jayden Marable said.

Senior guard Chelby Koker led NIU scoring with an 18-point outing. The Huskie veteran had a team-best three three-pointers but struggled in shooting after going 4-for-14 (28.6%) from the field.

By the final buzzer, the Huskies went 20-63 (31.7%) on field goal shooting. Saturday marked NIU’s worst shooting performance since going 19-of-69 against the University of Notre Dame, their only other loss of the season.

“We had too many lapses, even on the defensive end tonight, to be able to withstand some of our offensive woes,” Carlsen said.

The game marked NIU’s second straight matchup with a winless opponent. NIU dispatched the Lindenwood University Lions Monday in a 67-56 triumph.

Two Huskies were honored before Saturday’s tip-off for reaching the 1,000 career points milestone over the past month. Graduate guard Janae Poisson and senior forward A’Jah Davis each received commemorative basketballs.

Defense keeps the Huskies in front

Shooting miscues were evident in the first half as NIU shot 11-for-37 in the first two quarters of the game. These struggles allowed SIUE to make it a five-point game midway through the second quarter after sinking a pair of free throws.

NIU’s defense bolstered from there, holding SIUE scoreless for the remainder of the half. The Huskies tacked on a three-pointer and a layup to create a 10-point cushion heading into halftime.

Defense played a pivotal role in helping NIU’s first-half lead. NIU contained SIUE to 7-for-28 (25%) shooting from the field and helped the Huskies score 17 points off turnovers.

NIU slips up in the second half

SIUE made its biggest splash of the day in the third quarter, matching NIU with 21 points. Poor discipline by NIU gave the Cougars 13 chances from the charity stripe, 11 of which they made.

Then-juniors guard Chelby Koker annd forward A’Jah Davis sit on the bench during a loss to Ball State University on Jan. 5, 2021. Koker and Davis were NIU’s top scorers in Saturday’s upset defeat by Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. (Northern Star File Photo)

“I think we just came out of the locker room a little slow,” Davis said. “I think we thought we had it figured out.”

The Cougars managed to pull ahead in the game’s final quarter, outscoring the Huskies 19-7.

“Anytime you let a team get that feeling of confidence, you’re kind of in for a struggle,” Carlsen said. “And unfortunately, we really did, offensively, find a hard time putting the ball in the basket.”

Koker made two three-pointers in the last three minutes of the third quarter. The Cougars responded with a 12-0 run that trimmed their deficit to 53-50 with 7:23 left.

SIUE brought itself even with NIU with 4:31 left in the game after sophomore guard Molly Sheehan sank her three-point attempt. The Cougars took their first lead of the game nearly two minutes later after back-to-back steals by senior guard KK Rodriguez turned into a pair of layups by sophomore guard Sofie Lewis.

Last-minute thrills

The game appeared bound for overtime after NIU junior forward Tara Stauffacher intercepted an inbound pass from SIUE and hit a layup to tie the game at 60 with six seconds to play.

The tie was ultimately short lived as Rodriguez responded with the game-winning layup with four seconds on the clock.

Carlsen called a timeout to allow her players to regroup with NIU needing to land a field goal for a chance at overtime.

Koker inbounded the ball to Poisson to start NIU’s final possession. Poisson’s ensuing layup attempt to tie the game fell short, allowing the Cougars to rebound as time expired and then secure their first win of the season.

“This one is going to take a while to get over but we don’t have a lot of time,” Carlsen said.

The Huskies will close out their non-conference slate at noon Wednesday as they head to Indianapolis, Indiana, for a battle with 4-6 Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).