Huskies cruise past Eastern Illinois

By Eddie Garcia

DeKALB — It was a memorable start for the women’s basketball team, as the Huskies began their season with a 93-64 win Friday over Eastern Illinois University.

The Huskies shot 53.8 percent from the field, as they continued their fast-paced offense that helped them reach the Mid-American Conference tournament championship this past season.

Four players scored in double figures for the Huskies, as senior forward Kelly Smith led the way with a game high of 26 points, on 11-for-15 shooting from the field, along with seven rebounds in 35 minutes of play.

“Anytime we can keep her on the floor for extended minutes, we’re going to be a lot better basketball team,” said Head Coach Lisa Carlsen, according to NIU Media Services. “That’s a great way for her to start off her senior year.”

The Huskies began their first game of the season with an unexpected starting lineup, as it included three returning starters from the 2016-17 season, along with redshirt freshman guard Paulina Castro and redshirt sophomore forward Ally May.

This was Castro’s first ever regular season game and first start of her college career.

Heading into the season, Carlsen said some of the positions are up for grabs, as she did not count out anyone for a starting spot.

“You know some of those positions are still up in the air as far as starting, right now I think our rotation can go as deep as eight, nine, or ten kids,” Carlsen said. “These early games especially will be an indicator as we kind of settle into a little bit more of what everyone’s role is and what rotations look like. It might be a little bit before we figure that out, which is a good thing, just because we are little bit deeper.”

The Huskies had 13 players see time on the court against the Panthers, with seven players playing 10 minutes or more.

The deep lineup included key minutes from sophomore guard Janae Poisson, who led the Huskies bench with 14 points in 18 minutes of play.

Freshman guard Gabby Nikitinaite and freshman forward Riley Blackwell played a combined 24 minutes on the court, as they recorded 12 rebounds, four assists, while shooting 5-for-12 from the field.

The Huskies’ bench played a pivotal role in the win, as they outscored the Panthers reserves 33-15.

NIU shot 42.9 percent from behind the 3-point line as junior guard Mikayla Voigt began the season with a hot start from behind the arc, as she went 4-for-5 from 3-point range, finishing the game with 14 points.

The Huskies defense held the Panthers to 34.3 percent shooting from the field and they out-rebounded the Panthers 49-33.

“Anytime we can out-rebound a team, that’s going to be good,” said Carlsen, according to NIU Media Services. “We’re not always going to be the biggest team on the floor.”

The Huskies look to continue their momentum as they will head to the University of Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes 7 p.m. Wednesday In Iowa City.