Women’s basketball upset by Lewis

By Steve Shonder

Women’s basketball couldn’t overcome a poor defensive performance in the first half, dropping its exhibition game Saturday.

The Huskies fell to the Lewis Flyers, 60-49, at the Convocation Center. Lewis, of Div. II, shot 61.5 percent from field in the first half on its way to a 37-24 halftime lead.

The Huskies’ defensive performance in the second half cut the Flyers’ shooting percentage in half, but it wasn’t enough for NIU to overcome the deficit. Head coach Kathi Bennett said the defensive play lacked consistency, but there were bright spots.

“I thought we had excellent spurts on defense,” Bennett said. “We didn’t carry it over long enough. I think we were a little early to shooters. If I had to say one thing, we probably got to shooters a little bit better” in the second half.

The Flyers took an early lead and held on to it before back-to-back 3-pointers from redshirt sophomore forward Cassidy Glenn and redshirt junior guard Lacia Gorman put the Huskies up 14-12. Redshirt senior guard Danny Pulliam hit a layup in transition to stretch the lead to 16-12; it was the only lead NIU had for the rest of the game.

Lewis responded by going on a 25-8 run to close out the half. Lewis freshman Jess Reinhart was perfect from the floor in the first half, going 5-for-5 from the field.

“It looks like we need to be better defensively,” Pulliam said. “We can always get better defensively; I don’t think there will ever be a time where we’re really solid offensively. I think we need to be as aggressive as we were in the second half from start to finish, and I think that would help us a lot. If we pick up defensively then it will automatically transition to being better offensively.”

The Huskies’ offense saw sparks on the interior after halftime. Lewis deflected a lot of NIU’s inside passes in the first half. Freshmen Kelly Smith and Renee Sladek combined for 15 points in the second half. NIU outscored Lewis 25-23 in the second half.

“The biggest thing is that we tried to be more aggressive,” Pulliam said. “I tried to get to the rim more and just look for our shot more. At the beginning of the game, I think we were a little slow and hesitant to take shots and get to the basket. We tried to be a little more aggressive than we were in the first half.”

With the injuries the Huskies have seen, Bennett said she was pleased with the way some of the freshmen stepped in to play.

Redshirt senior forward Jenna Thorp, who is recovering from a knee injury, led the team in minutes. Bennett said Thorp looked a little rusty, but she is progressing well.

“Even just me and Renee, we didn’t expect to play in the positions we are right now,” Smith said. “We just have to fill where it’s needed. … People just have to adjust and take on the role they’re given.”