Koker’s scoring can’t carry NIU past Panthers

Huskies leave Macomb without a win in two close contests

Junior+guard+Chelby+Koker+possesses+the+ball+during+an+exhibition+on+Oct.+29+against+Benedictine+University+at+the+Convocation+Center.+Koker+scored+

Khavon Thomas | Northern Star

Junior guard Chelby Koker possesses the ball during an exhibition on Oct. 29 against Benedictine University at the Convocation Center. Koker scored

DeOndre Saunders, Sports Reporter

DeKALB — The women’s basketball team suffered a second-straight loss in the Compass Challenge, falling short to the Eastern Illinois University Panthers 87-81 Saturday in Macomb.

Junior guard Chelby Koker led the way for the Huskies, recording 29 points, 11 assists, and six steals. Senior guard Janae Poisson scored 17 points, and freshman forward Laura Nickel added12 points.

Women’s basketball head coach Lisa Carlsen praised Koker’s performance Saturday evening. 

“Chelby was really good today, especially in the second half,” Carlsen said. “She let the game come to her and did a good job of penetrating and getting the ball to open shooters. We’ve said all along that we need the ball in Chelby’s hands and trust her to make the right decisions, and she did that.”

The Panthers had tremendous ball movement in the first quarter, leading to good opportunities around the basket. EIU shot 61% from the field and scored 16 points in the paint but did not deter the Huskies’ offensive attack. 

Koker scored six points in the first quarter to keep the Huskies competitive. Panthers senior forward Abby Wahl’s seven points and junior guard Lariah Washington’s six points led the Panthers to a 25-18 advantage in the first quarter. 

Koker started to get into a rhythm in the second quarter, scoring six points while EIU continued to dominate the paint. The Huskies entered halftime down 46-32.

NIU started the second half with an attempt to rally from behind against the Panthers after trailing by 14 at the half. The Huskies posted 17 points in the third quarter, with 15 points coming from three-pointers. Koker scored 8 points in the third to strike a comeback against the Panthers.

Poisson and Koker began to surge in the fourth quarter, with the two guards combining for 20 points. Poisson hit three three-pointers, including one that brought the score to 75-69 with 2:51 left. Koker recorded two free throws with 2:11 left to make it a three-point game. After NIU eventually made it a one-possession game, the Panthers countered with continued scoring in the paint.

The Huskies’ efforts ultimately came up short as they lost 87-81 despite a productive second-half performance that saw them score 49 points.

Four starters from the Panthers scored double digits in the victory. Senior guard Kira Arthofer led EIU with 20 points on Saturday.

The Huskies remain on the road as they play 2 p.m. Dec. 12 in Des Moines, Iowa, taking on the Drake University Bulldogs. The game will be available to watch on ESPN+.