Women’s basketball season ends in defeat

By Eddie Garcia

With the NCAA tournament right around the corner, the women’s basketball team’s journey to the tourney was cut short.

The Huskies (15-15, 7-12 Mid-American Conference) began the contest with a 9-2 run in the opening three minutes of the game, but the Eagles (11-19, 7-12 MAC) managed to claw back with a tenacious defensive presence.

NIU allowed 21 points off of 19 turnovers in the game, which was enough for the Eagles to edge out with the win.

Head Coach Lisa Carlsen said she is proud of her team’s intensity and focus throughout the game and credited Eastern for their energy on the court.

“That one obviously stings a little bit,” Carlsen said. “You never want to see a season come to an end, but I think you got to give Eastern a lot of credit. They had some kids really step up and make some plays, especially in the fourth quarter.”

The Huskies controlled the boards early on with 28 rebounds on 11 second chance points in the first half alone.

Junior guard Courtney Woods contributed to their efforts on both ends of the basketball as she finished the first half with 14 points and eight rebounds. She ended the game with 24 points and 11 rebounds as she reeled in her eighth double-double of the season.

Woods finished the season with 664 total points, which is the most points scored by a junior at NIU. It was a breakout year all around for Woods as she nearly averaged a double-double on the season averaging over seven rebounds per game.

“I think for seven months we are going to have a sour taste in our mouth, and I think that is going to motivate us for all of our post-season workouts, our pre-season workouts and our summer workouts because we don’t get to play another basketball game until November,” Woods said. “It’s awful that we go out on that note, but we just have to kind of look back on all of the good times and the good games we played this year and kind of put that one away, I guess.”

Despite being in foul trouble for a majority of the second half, senior forward Kelly Smith finished the final game of her Huskie career with 20 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field.

Smith fouled out with 17 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter with her team down 82-77. She finished her career in red and black with 1,357 points and 624 rebounds.

Smith said her team knew they had to come in ready to go from the start as they had their eyes set on the next round in Cleveland.

“We came into this game really wanting to get into Cleveland, knowing we had to be tough and knowing we had to be solid, so I think both teams tonight really came in ready to fight.”

Eastern Michigan outscored the Huskies 48-34 in points in the paint and 18-9 in bench points.

With the loss, the Huskies missed their chance to reach the second round of the MAC tournament for the second consecutive year.

Junior guard Mikayla Voigt said the adversity with all of their injuries throughout the season only made the team stronger, and as a result, they played better basketball in the second half of the season.

“Unfortunately, we just got into a little bit of a panic at the end, but I am still really proud of this team and how we fought all the way to the final buzzer,” said Voigt. “We’ll be back next year.”