Huskies win big game at home

By Zac Camacho

DeKALB — The women’s basketball team won a close fight Wednesday against Toledo University at the Convocation Center.

Right from the tipoff, the Huskies and the Rockets were battling back and forth and trading leads and, ultimately, NIU prevailed in the end.

“That’s a great ball club we just beat,” said Head Coach Lisa Carlsen. “We showed a lot of toughness, and we did a great job executing.”

The first quarter featured three ties and four lead changes.

NIU shot 47 percent from the field in the first quarter. Junior guard Courtney Woods led both teams with seven points, including a layup to break the 13-13 tie with three seconds left in the quarter.

During the following inbound play, sophomore guard Mariella Santucci of Toledo committed a traveling violation, giving the Huskies a chance to extend their lead with one second left.

In what Carlsen said is their only inbound play, senior forward Kelly Smith was found wide open under the basket for a buzzer-beating layup, giving NIU a 17-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. Smith finished the game with 22 points and eight rebounds.

The Huskies’ 3-point shooting continued to struggle in the second quarter, shooting 1-for-5 from beyond the arc in the quarter and just 22 percent in the first half.

“Toledo does a great job at guarding the arc,” Carlsen said. “We knew we had to penetrate the defense in order to get opportunities.”

With the three ball not falling in the first half, NIU totaled 20 of its 31 first half points in the paint. Woods led the Huskies with 12 points in the first half, shooting 50 percent from the field. Smith tallied 10 points in the opening half while grabbing five rebounds in the process.

NIU went into the second half down by three but was able to reclaim and maintain the lead thanks to better 3-point shooting.

Junior guard Mikayla Voigt came out of halftime hitting a 3-pointer to tie the game at 34. After a Toledo layup, Voigt tied it once again with a pair of free throws at 36-36.

Just over two minutes into the second half, Woods gave NIU its first lead since 7:37 minutes remaining in the second quarter, hitting two free throws and putting them up 40-38.

The Huskies were able to hold a lead for over four minutes before Toledo junior guard Mikaela Boyd completed a 3-point play, giving Toledo a 50-49 lead.

Woods answered right back with a 3-pointer, putting the Huskies back on top 52-50 with 2:56 minutes left in the third.

The Huskies began the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run, increasing their lead to 10.

With 3:10 minutes remaining in the game, Voigt nailed a 3-point dagger to put NIU up 12 and allowing the Huskies to cruise to a 10-point victory. Voigt finished with 19 points, eight assists and five rebounds.

Woods lead all scorers with 38 points, five rebounds and four assists.

“My teammates do a great job at finding me where I want the ball,” Woods said.

The Huskies will face off against Western Michigan University 1 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center in their final regular season game of the year.