Women’s hoops survive; advance


Members of the women’s basketball team celebrate a win Feb. 4 against Western Michigan University. The team will face Western Michigan 10 a.m. Friday for a chance at playing for the MAC Championship. 

By Danielle Brown

DeKALB — The women’s basketball team completed its largest comeback in program history Wednesday when it erased a 22-point deficit in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

NIU (20-11, 12-6 MAC) defeated the Ohio University Bobcats, 72-71, in Cleveland to advance to the semifinals Friday.

“I think we had a lot of heart and passion, and there was no doubt [in our minds] that we’d come back,” said senior guard Ally Lehman. “We knew [we] made some comebacks in the past, and this was no different.”

NIU turned the ball over after taking its first lead of the game with seven seconds left, but Ohio missed a wide-open 3-pointer, and the rebound fell to sophomore guard Courtney Woods to secure the victory for the Huskies.

The Huskies were trailing 41-24 at halftime and shot 27 percent in the first half, but after the team made its adjustments, it shot 70 percent in the second half, and NIU was able to surmount the historical comeback against Ohio (22-9, 11-8 MAC). The Huskies grouped together at halftime to reassure each other that their season was not going to be over.

“We all decided in the second half that we were going to come alive and show [people] that we were meant to be here,” Lehman said. “We went to the locker room knowing they couldn’t shoot lights out again.

We actually still believed we would come back since 20 minutes is a lot of time.”

Head Coach Lisa Carlsen said she told the team they needed to cut the deficit to single-digits by the start of the fourth quarter to have a chance.

“The message was that we can’t panic,” Carlsen said.

The game started off in Ohio’s control. The Bobcats were grinding hard for an upset as NIU struggled to score the ball. Ohio continued to make 3-pointers in the second quarter. Sophomore forward Renee Sladek was the lone bright spot in the first half as she led the Huskies in the first half with 11 points.

“The attacking was there … they just had someone in the middle blocking anything,” Lehman said. “They kept shooting lights out, and we couldn’t connect.”

The Huskie offense came together in the second half as it slowly started to take momentum away from the Bobcats. Lehman started to take charge in the fourth quarter, and senior forward Cassidy Glenn sank a layup with seven seconds left to give the Huskies the lead for good.

The Huskies will play Western Michigan University 10 a.m. Friday in Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The game will broadcast on ESPN3.

MAC Awards

Lehman and freshman guard Janae Poisson were named First Team All-MAC and All-MAC Freshman Team, respectively, earlier this week.

Lehman became the first Division I player to have scored 1,000 points, grabbed 1,000 rebounds and over 500 assists in her career.

Lehman said it was a good feeling to be named to the First Team but said she wouldn’t have been able to do it without her teammates.

“A lot of that credit goes to my teammates,” Lehman said. “They make me look better than I am.”

Lehman was also second in voting for the MAC Player of the Year award, which went to Larissa Lurken, Kent State senior guard. Lehman said not winning the award did not bother her as much as it did other teammates, but she was upset that Glenn and Woods weren’t nominated for any awards.

Poisson said she was very happy to be named to the All-MAC Freshman Team and sees the hard work the team put in is paying off. “It felt really good,” Poisson said. “I came into it for a MAC Championship, so it’s a good feeling to get this honor.”