Women’s basketball blows by the RedHawks

By Frank Gogola

Women’s basketball (7-8, 3-2 MAC) used a second-half surge with a strong close down the stretch to beat Miami (Ohio), 69-66, Saturday at Millett Hall in Oxford, Ohio.

The Huskies’ victory over the RedHawks (5-11, 1-4 MAC) gave NIU its first road win in MAC play this season. The third conference win for the Huskies gives them one more conference win than they had last season, when they went 2-14 in MAC play.

“Miami probably outplayed us; I know they did,” head coach Kathi Bennett said. “My hat’s off to them. But [in the] second half we really got some stops and came out hungry. When you’re down pretty much the whole game and you come back and get it [a win], it means a lot, it shows some character, [and] it shows growth. And I definitely felt like this team grew today to get this win.”

The Huskies, who trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half, found themselves in a 34-27 hole at the half. They opened the second half on a 13-5 run and took a 40-39 lead, their first lead of the game, at the 13:42 mark.

From there, the game featured three ties and six lead changes until the Huskies went ahead for good, 51-49, on a Natecia Augusta jumper in the paint with 8:53 to play.

The Huskies and RedHawks continued to battle, and NIU still held a two-point lead, 62-60, with 2:28 to play. The teams exchanged one free throw apiece before redshirt junior forward Jenna Thorp, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds, hit a 3-pointer with 39 seconds to play and the shot clock winding down.

“She’s made big 3s in a lot of games,” Bennett said. “It was the play of the game. It’s why we won.”

Freshman guard Ally Lehman knocked down one of two free throw attempts with 30 seconds left to put the Huskies up 67-61.

Following a missed Miami shot and timeout, junior guard Amanda Corral, who finished with a game-high 24 points, slipped on an inbounds play and turned the ball over with nine seconds to play. Lehman fouled Miami’s Haley Robertson, who hit both free throws to pull the RedHawks within four, 67-63, with six seconds remaining.

Corral’s turnover was the lone second-half turnover by the Huskies, who committed 12 first-half turnovers. They came into the game averaging only 13.7 turnovers per game, which ranked first in the MAC and 32nd in the nation.

Redshirt junior guard Danny Pulliam, who finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 39 minutes, was immediately fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass. She knocked down the backend of two free-throw attempts, which upped NIU’s lead to 68-63 with 4.1 seconds to play.

After a 30-second timeout, Miami’s Hannah Robertson drained a 3-pointer that cut NIU’s lead to 68-66 with one second left.

On the ensuing inbounds pass, it was determined that Lehman was fouled following a five-minute discussion among the referees. She hit the backend of her two free-throw attempts, which tied her career high with 11 points and put the Huskies up 69-66.

The RedHawks were unable to get a shot off with 0.3 seconds on the clock.

“It’s a good win,” Bennett said. “It’s a good road win. … [I’m] just really proud of the team. We got outplayed a little bit in the first half and found a way to stay together and found a way to win.”