Women’s basketball wins season opener over ISU

Davis records double-double in 77-60 win over Redbirds

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Khavon Thomas | Northern Star

Junior guard Chelby Koker (right) dribbles past a defender in NIU’s exhibition game against Benedictine on Oct. 29.

Waleed Alamieh, Sports Reporter

DeKALB — The women’s basketball team opened their 2021 season with a 77-60 victory over the Illinois State University Redbirds on Tuesday. 

The Huskies played with added energy in its first home game with fans since the 2019-2020 season. Players like junior forward A’Jah Davis felt the energy from the crowd.

“It was a lot of fun to have fans, family, the band, and the dance team,” Davis said after recording 15 points and 15 rebounds. “That atmosphere was unmatched.”

The Huskies used that energy all game, especially on their rebounding. NIU outrebounded the Redbirds 43-32 on the night. The killer for the Redbirds was the Huskies’ offensive rebounding numbers, doubling their opponents 14-7 in the category. 

Huskies head coach Lisa Carlsen knows how important rebounding is to NIU’s game plan.

“We talk all the time about how critical rebounding is to our success,” Carlsen said. “It’s important to not give up second-chance opportunities, but it also lead our fast breaks and conversions, which is critical to our success.”  

NIU had a very efficient night from the floor, making 46.4% of their shot attempts. The Huskies started off the game struggling to find an outside shot, shooting just 1-5 from the three-point line in the first despite holding a four-point lead.

The Huskies would start to get scoring from all parts of their lineup. NIU’s starting five all finished with double-digit scoring. Junior guard Chelby Koker was the one who got her teammates more involved, having a team-high four assists to go along with a game-high 17 points. 

“It’s just executing the play calls our offensive coordinator draws up,” Koker said. “I’m not forcing shots. If they defend well, I’m gonna look for that next open teammate.”

In the second quarter, the Huskies continued to pound the scoring paint as the outside shot still struggled to fall. The Redbirds capitalized off the Huskies’ struggles to make a comeback. ISU used three 3-pointers and a layup to take a 29-25 lead. The Huskies settled down and would end the quarter on a seven-point run to take a 32-29 lead into the half. 

The Huskies soon found their jump shots as senior forward Mikayla Brandon hit two threes and redshirt senior guard Janae Poisson added another to jump start the Huskies on a 12-4 run to break the game open. The Huskies scored 23 points in the quarter on 56% shooting, including 43% from the three.

NIU’s defense stepped up in the quarter, holding the Redbirds to just 10 points on a lowly 21% shooting. 

The Huskies would go on to easily close out the Redbirds in the fourth, finishing the game by a final score of 77-60. 

NIU returns to the court at 1 p.m. Sunday, when they travel to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for a matchup against Harvard University.