Huskies heat up to heave Western home

By Mat Hopkinson

NIU women’s basketball won its first MAC tournament game since 2007, defeating Western Michigan Saturday, 68-51.

The Huskies clinched the No. 7 seed with the victory and will move onto Cleveland to take on No. 6 seeded Akron at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday in the second round of the MAC Tournament.

After having lost a regular season matchup to the Broncos four days prior, the Huskies came out with a plan and executed it perfectly.

The game started off physical, as the referees were letting them play and not making many foul calls. Western Michigan looked too relaxed to start the game, not scoring its first basket until nearly five minutes in.

NIU came out on the attack, relentlessly getting to the paint for layups and short jumpers, facilitated by slick interior passing by everyone involved.

“I thought Northern Illinois did a great job today,” said Western Michigan coach Tasha McDowell. “I felt they were on the offense and we were on the defense. We both wanted to get to Cleveland, and NIU did a better job of executing.”

The telling moment of the first half was with eight minutes left, as NIU guard Alicia Johnson heaved up a three-pointer a few feet from the arc with four seconds left on the shot clock and hit nothing but net. Johnson’s prayer put the Huskies up 23-10.

NIU would go on to keep that lead, going into halftime up 30-17. Western Michigan shot a 22.2 percent in the first half, while NIU shot 45.8 percent behind a near perfect effort from freshman Amanda Corral, shooting 5-8 and 3-3 from three point range for 13 points.

“I want to thank coach Conroy, we watched a lot of film together,” said NIU coach Kathi Bennett. “His observations really helped, especially on the offensive end. We made some good adjustments to help us score, especially to start the game off.”

The Broncos had one last push in them as with two minutes left they had gotten it down to 16, but Satavia Taylor came down the floor and hit a three to seal the game and send NIU to Cleveland.

Corral finished with 21 points, shooting 9-12 from the field, and Davis chipped in 14 points with seven rebounds. The Huskies led in assists 17-5 and held the edge in the paint, 30-16.

“It’s incredible,” Corral said. “It’s awesome for me to be a freshman and going to Cleveland my first year. We want to get the seniors there and make some noise in the MAC tournament.”

Bennett did not overplay the performance of this game, knowing that one game does not make a season.

“It’s just an awesome feeling, our goal was to get to Cleveland,” Bennett said. “It’s a start. We want to build and be consistent like the Bowling Greens and the Toledos. Hopefully it will be a great finish for our seniors. For our young ones to get to Cleveland and understand what it’s all about, it’s a great start.”