Courtney Shelton’s career high game not enough for an NIU victory

By Katie Leb

With the clock winding down, Courtney Shelton found the hot hand NIU needed to make a comeback run against Western Michigan Broncos on Saturday.

In front of a home crowd, the junior guard was unstoppable at the end, hitting 14 of her career-high 29 points in the last 1:30 of the game. Though the buckets, including back-to-back three-pointers, would not be enough to overcome a nine-point deficit, Shelton made the Broncos (5-12 overall, 1-3 MAC) feel uneasy in the 71-67 loss.

“I haven’t got feeling back in my fingers yet,” said WMU head coach Tasha McDowell. “That kid hit some amazing shots. Every time we play her she does.”

Shelton felt bittersweet in the loss, hoping for a win more than a career-high performance.

“It’s a great feeling, but at the same time disappointing,” Shelton said. “I would rather get the win and have zero points.”

Up 11 early in the first half, the Huskies’ (6-11, 0-4) defense could not hold together and gave an 11-point lead to the Broncos three times in the second half.

“We play hard sometimes,” said NIU head coach Kathi Bennett. “We don’t play every possession. A lot of teams don’t, but we need to. That’s who we are.”

Saturday’s loss seemed all too familiar as the Huskies defeated only Loyola (8-8, 2-3 Horizon) during the eight-game winter break, which included the start of conference play.

“We’ve played a lot of good teams,” Bennett said. “Over break we got tougher defensively.”

Bennett admitted the defensive effort did not show in Saturday’s loss, but acknowledged the bond of the team as being crucial to its success going forward.

“We’re really not divided, really together,” she said. “We’re a true team.”

In the Huskies’ worst performance of the season against Toledo, Bennett said she saw the team as a singular unit. Having shot 13 percent from the field in the first half, Bennett said it would have been easy to give up. But when she went into the locker room, she heard positive talk and encouragement from the players.

“That’s pretty special,” Bennett said. “That really showed me a lot about their character, and that we really do want to do this and we’re together.”

Highlighting the break was Marke Freeman’s 1,000th career point. The Springfield native became the 26th member in the elite club on Jan. 8 in the 67-61 loss to Central Michigan.

“I am really proud of her,” Shelton said of her fellow guard.