Huskies drop regular season finale at home

By Eddie Garcia

DeKALB — The women’s basketball team was unable to finish off its regular season on a high note and was defeated Saturday by the Western Michigan Broncos 85-66.

The Huskies (15-14, 7-11 Mid-American Conference) had poor ball handling and an early shooting slump that allowed the Broncos (16-14, 9-9 MAC) to gain enough momentum for the win.

“I think you have to give Western a lot of credit,” said Head Coach Lisa Carlsen. “They did a great job from the beginning of taking us out of some things, and we didn’t necessarily handle it very well.”

Turnovers proved to be a problem early on for the Huskies as they had seven in the first quarter alone. The Broncos capitalized on those mistakes as they made seven points off the turnovers.

Carlsen showed some frustration on the court and said it was because of her team’s inability to handle the Broncos’ ball pressure.

“We turned the ball over too much, and we didn’t get the ball to spots on the floor where I thought we could execute our offense,” Carlsen said. “So those things again, they are not new, and I thought we have been better as of late handling it. We just took a step backward in that area today.”

The Huskies shot 29 percent in the first quarter on 4-of-14 from the field, but they shaped up in the second quarter, outscoring the Broncos 19-14.

Junior guard Courtney Woods hit a career milestone, as she surpassed Huskie hall of famer Carol Owens for the most points scored by a junior at NIU in a season after hitting a layup with 4:51 minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Woods finished the 2017-18 regular season off with 640 total points, 87 3-point field goals and 225 rebounds. The MAC player of the year candidate completed her junior season as the conference leading scorer and the No. 10 leading scorer in the nation.

“At the end of the day, I scored a lot of points, but it doesn’t really matter today because I obviously didn’t do enough for my team,” Woods said. “I guess if I step back in a couple of days it’s probably going to be a nicer record to have. Hopefully we can finish this season out strong, and then I could look back at the season as a whole and learn from it.”

Senior forward Kelly Smith scored eight out of the 10 first quarter points for the Huskies. She finished senior day with a team-high 22 points and seven rebounds.

Smith finished her regular season averaging just over 16 points and nearly six rebounds per game as she heads into the final conference tournament of her career.

“We obviously wanted to get that win tonight, but the cool thing is it is not our last home game,” Smith said. “We get to play at home again on Monday, so we need to just focus on that and getting a win in the first round of the tournament.”

The Huskies opened up the second half firing on all cylinders with an 11-0 run to give them a 40-39 lead in the first three minutes of the third quarter.

Redshirt junior guard Nicole Orr sparked the run as she hit back-to-back threes, completely changing the momentum of the game.

However, the Broncos responded with a 20-8 run in the final six minutes of the third quarter and never looked back.

Western Michigan outscored NIU 48-37 in the second half of the game on 60 percent shooting from the field.

Carlsen said her team needs to quickly erase this game from their memory to focus on the bigger task ahead with their first game of the MAC tournament Monday against Eastern Michigan.