Toledo defeats hobbled Huskies

By Tom Burton

DeKalb — A turnaround, game-winning floater in the paint from senior forward Kelly Smith curled off the rim, and the women’s basketball team fell 63-60 Saturday against the University of Toledo Rockets.

The Huskies (10-6, 2-3 Mid-American Conference) dropped their second consecutive conference game falling below .500 in conference for the first time since the 2015-16 season.

Head Coach Lisa Carlsen said the team battled well, and she was proud of the way the team fought through adversity.

“Anytime you can go on the road and have the game come down to a couple of possessions, you’re doing something right,” Carlsen said. “I was proud of the way we continued to battle but, unfortunately, a couple things didn’t go our way, and we came out on the short end of the stick.”

The offense struggled out of the gate as NIU played in its second game without sophomore guard Myia Starks, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.

Playing without Starks and sophomore guard Janae Poisson, who is also out with an ACL tear, forced Carlsen to go with a shorter rotation as junior guard Mikayla Voigt played all 40 minutes, and Smith tallied 37 of her own.

The Huskies were averaging just over 82 points a contest coming into the game but were only able to produce 26 points in the first half and 60 overall.

After trailing by one heading into the halftime break, NIU kept it close heading into the fourth quarter, facing a 50-48 deficit.

The Huskies trailed 57-52 in the fourth quarter before a 6-0 run propelled them to a 58-87 lead.

NIU was losing 61-60 with only seconds remaining when Smith’s crunch time turnaround shot did not fall. NIU sent the Rockets to the free throw line for two shots, making the score 63-60.

“We wanted to get the ball to Kelly, and [Toledo] did a good job of being in the right spot and defending well,” Carlsen said. “Toledo is one of the best defensive teams in the league.”

A game-tying, desperation 3-point attempt from junior guard Courtney Woods was just off the mark, and NIU lost in another close conference game.

All five conference games this season were decided by five points or less.

The Huskies will shift their focus to their next game against the conference-leading Central Michigan University Chippewas, who are 13-3 overall and an undefeated 5-0 in conference play.

“I think every night is a battle, and I’m sure Wednesday will be no different,” Carlsen said. “They’re definitely one of the best teams in the league [and] a high powered offense. “It’s an opportunity to go home and an opportunity to win.”

Tip off against the Chippewas will be 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Convocation Center.