Women’s basketball splits on weekend

By Jimmy Johnson

NIU women’s head basketball coach Kathi Bennett experienced her first win and loss all in one weekend.

The Huskies (1-1) placed third at the Minnesota Best Buy Classic, and it didn’t take long for Bennett’s defensive philosophy to rub off on her team.

NIU forced 26 turnovers in their season opener, but fell to Minnesota, 79-58.

“I don’t think the score indicates how close that game was,” Bennett said. “We just need to tie together a complete game for 40 minutes.”

A 10-0 run by the Golden Gophers with less than two minutes to play in the first half put the Huskies at a 42-30 deficit.

The senior duo of Ebony Ellis and Marke Freeman struggled to find their groove in the Huskies’ season opener.

Ellis played only 13 total minutes due to foul trouble early on, tallying five fouls.

Freeman, a Preseason All-MAC West selection, shot 3-for-11 for seven points and four assists.

While Ellis and Freeman struggled, Courtney Shelton and Kim Davis helped to pick up the slack.

Shelton, a junior whom Bennett has labeled as a “glue player”, led the Huskies with 16 points while draining all three of NIU’s goals from beyond the arc.

Davis, who hadn’t played a collegiate game since 2009 as a walk-on at Eastern Michigan, led the way inside with 14 points and five rebounds.

“She’s just consistent,” Bennett said of Davis. “I think she understands the system and she really ties us together [as a team].”

Losing on the boards 41-21 hindered the Huskies’ second-chance opportunities while also allowing Minnesota to clean up on their own misses.

“They’re probably the biggest team we’re going to face the whole year,” Bennett said. “They were literally huge.”

NIU bounced back in their second matchup by taking down George Washington (0-2), 66-60.

Freeman led the way with 25 points while Ellis came through with 11 points and six rebounds.

“We recovered pretty well and showed some strength in some areas and it was a great win for us,” Freeman said.

Freeman attributed the win to NIU’s cutting back turnovers in the second half, committing seven, in contrast to the 11 in first half.