WIU falls to women’s basketball

By Katie Leb

DeKALB | Notch win number two for Kathi Bennett.

In an Illinois rivalry game, the NIU women’s basketball team took down Western Illinois 73-65 Tuesday night in Macomb.

“It’s always nice to beat a directional school when you’re one of them,” Bennett said, who is in her first season as head coach. “You want to own that, and we got our start with the first one we’re playing.”

Guard Valencia Kelly dropped two buckets for the Leathernecks (0-2) to start the game, but the Huskies (2-1) answered back. After knotting the game at 15, guard Marke Freeman put in a fast break layup to start a nine-point run. The Huskies would not be down the remainder of the half, taking a 33-29 lead into the locker room.

Bennett and guard Courtney Shelton said it was an ugly game, with 15 Huskies’ turnovers in the first half, but having the lead at halftime was optimistic.

“We went into the locker room saying we’re still up even though we made all these mistakes,” Shelton said. “For us to see that we wanted to limit our mistakes and turnovers, we could come out with a [win].”

NIU would continue to lead, grabbing its largest lead at 54-42 on a free throw from Ebony Ellis. The center would finish her game with a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds.

“What was really neat down the stretch was she finished,” Bennett said of Ellis. “She caught the ball in traffic and finished…the way she rebounded, she was fierce. She was really thumping on the glass.”

With about seven minutes left, down 55-43, the Leathernecks made their last run at overcoming the Huskies, scoring back-to-back three-pointers. At 4:42 forward Sadie Webb dropped a three from behind the arc to pull the Leathernecks to within four at 59-55.

But WIU began to play the foul game. Even with the clock not running, NIU ran up the score through the free throw shooting of Freeman and Shelton. Each put down four to seal the victory at 73-65.

“[Free throws are] really important down the line,” Shelton said. “We’ve been working a lot in practice on it. [Freeman] definitely stepped up and everyone went to the line a couple times. For us to hit them, that sealed the game.”