Women’s basketball falls to Eastern Michigan Eagles, 54-45

By Jacob Onak

The women’s basketball team (7-20, 2-12 MAC) fell to the Eastern Michigan Eagles (8-19, 6-8 MAC), 54-45, but it wasn’t for a lack of heart.

“I don’t think we can play harder, especially in the second half,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett. “We have one offensive rebound in the first half and ended up with 13 and just got some second chance points and laid it on the line. Not saying we played the smartest and had some untimely turnovers and some missed shots that, you know, we keep working on getting them to fall.”

Sophomore guard Amanda Corral and the Huskies came out strong in the first half as Corral had the first five points in the first five minutes for NIU.

It was when Eastern Michigan switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone defense that viewers truly saw a change in the Huskies offense. NIU moved the ball well but couldn’t execute when it found the open shot.

Offensively, Eastern Michigan really found its stride late in the first half. The Eagles went on an 11-0 run to take the lead going into halftime. NIU freshman guard Alexis Lindstrom drained a three at the end of the half but the Huskies were still down 24-17 at the half.

The start of the second half saw NIU turn up the heat defensively. The Huskies were diving for any 50-50 ball that was on the court and the defensive pressure started to translate into some offensive success.

With offensive play from Corral and sophomore forward Natecia Augusta, NIU was able to tie the game at 30-30 midway through the second half.

“I think it started with our halftime talk,” Augusta said. “We talked about working harder in the second half and putting 40 minutes together. We just collectively decided every loose ball was ours and we would have a chance.”

The Huskies couldn’t continue their offensive play, as some key turnovers gave the Eagles a couple of fastbreak points and NIU saw the game slowly slip away.

Eastern Michigan’s Desyree Thomas had a career-high 17 points with five rebounds in 36 minutes of play. Eagles head coach Tory Verdi was happy with his team’s lack of turnovers.

“The fact we had only eight turnovers, that’s an area that we really tried to hone in on early in the year,” Verdi said. “It was more of a chem. Thing and we were playing diff people that never really played together before…We really cut those down and the fact we had eight tonight is a true testament to our guards.”

NIU’s Corral had a team-high 14 points with eight rebounds in all 40 minutes of play, while Augusta added 12 points, eight rebounds.