Huskies zip past Akron in Ohio

By Ryan Ostry

DeKALB — The women’s basketball team (12-11, 4-8 Mid-American Conference) extended its career record Wednesday in Akron to 8-7 after an offensively dominated night, featuring a game the Akron Zips never led in.

“The way we came out of the locker room ready to go on both ends of the floor set the tone for the rest of the night,” said Head Coach Lisa Carlsen. “We shot the ball extremely well early in the game where we were able to get some stops, and that just breeds confidence.”

Freshman forward Riley Blackwell got the start for the Huskies Wednesday in place of redshirt sophomore forward Ally May, logging career highs with five points and five rebounds.

“I really just wanted to mix things up,” Carlsen said. “There wasn’t any real method to the madness, but it was more that we needed a change to provide a spark, and I think [Blackwell] has done that.”

The first quarter started off with NIU knocking down 60 percent of its 3-point shot attempts, with a strong performance from senior forward Kelly Smith, who had 10 points and five rebounds.

Akron (7-16, 1-11 MAC) struggled on both sides of the ball, as they shot just 30 percent from the field and gave up 23 points in the first quarter.

NIU witnessed a huge scare at the four-minute mark in the second quarter, as Smith went down after a contested layup where she was not able to walk off the court under her own power.

Smith left the game with 15 points and seven rebounds in just 12 minutes of play.

“It happened on the [opposite] end of the floor, so I didn’t see exactly how she came down,” Carlsen said. “It’s an ankle sprain, and hopefully it’s one that won’t take a long time to recover from.”

The Huskies didn’t miss a beat, however, as junior guard Courtney Woods picked up the slack with 14 points and seven rebounds through the first two quarters of the game.

The Zips did not attempt a single free throw in the first half and were out-scored in the paint 16-6 on the night.

Starting the second half with a 38-22 lead, the Huskies continued their hot shooting from behind the arc with a 53 percent completion percentage in the third quarter.

Akron continued to be loose with the ball, committing 14 turnovers compared to six for the Huskies.

Woods’ night was finished early after notching a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds.

Much of the same story was displayed in the final quarter, as every player was used for Carlsen’s club, including freshman guard Gabby Nikitinaite, who had 12 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

NIU finished the contest against its MAC adversary with a 81-64 victory.

The Huskies will look to make it three straight victories against the Bowling Green State University Falcons 1 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center.