Women’s basketball splits tourney

By Frank Gogola

Women’s basketball (3-3) left Las Cruces, N.M., the same way it arrived: With a .500 record.

The Huskies squared off with the New Mexico State Aggies (3-4) Friday and the Lamar Lady Cardinals (4-4) Saturday in the Aggie Hotel Encanto Thanksgiving Classic at the Pan American Center. Entering with a 2-2 record, they fell to the Aggies in a game that was close throughout and then responded with a blowout win over the Lady Cardinals.

The Huskies opened the Classic with a fast-paced, back-and-forth game against the Aggies. NIU and New Mexico State were tied six times and exchanged the lead 13 times, but NIU fell 77-73.

The Huskies led 35-33 at the half, but their last lead of the game came at 49-48 with 11:21 to play in the second half. They never trailed by more than five points the remainder of the game, but were also never able to retake the lead.

With the Huskies trailing 73-71 and 17 seconds left on the clock, junior guard Amanda Corral stole an inbounds pass underneath the basket after converting two free-throw attempts, but missed a potential game-tying layup with two defenders on her. NIU was forced to play the foul game for the last 13 seconds and fell, 77-73, to New Mexico State.

Junior forward Natecia Augusta recorded 10 points and 12 rebounds for her third double-double of the season. Redshirt junior guard Danny Pulliam posted 15 points, tying her career high, to go along with four assists and two steals. Corral paced the team with 16 points.

“The first game was very disappointing,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “I thought we outplayed them. We didn’t bring our usual defense. They got into the lane and got easy layups down the stretch. We played well enough to win, but didn’t execute on defense.”

After a brief 2-2 tie in the second game of the Classic against the Lady Cardinals, the Huskies took a 4-2 lead and never looked back. They led by as many as 20 points in the first half and led 41-26 at the half.

NIU kept the pressure on and opened the second half with a 14-0 run that had it up 55-26 with 15:45 to play. The Huskies led by as many as 36 points in the second half and closed out the game with a 79-52 win.

Corral posted a career-high 25 points and added three assists, two rebounds, two steals and one block in 25 minutes. Augusta put up 11 points and grabbed eight boards. Sophomore guard Alexis Lindstrom scored 14 points, and senior guard Alicia Johnson recorded a team-high 11 rebounds.

“We responded with great emphasis on the defensive end…,” Bennett said. “I felt like we came out and said we didn’t want to give up points, and we followed the game plan defensively, and we knocked down shots on offense. We came back with the right mentality.”