Koker joins 1,000 point club in home victory

NIU holds Akron at bay in 79-67 victory in DeKalb.


Summer Fitzgerald

Junior guard Chelby Koker avoids traffic during NIU’s victory over the Akron Zips Monday night. (Summer Fitzgerald | Northern Star)

By Skyler Kisellus, Sports Reporter

DeKALB — Women’s basketball’s 79-67 victory over the University of Akron Zips in DeKalb was not the only achievement for junior guard Chelby Koker Monday night.

Koker, the third-year player out of Racine, Wisconsin, surpassed 1,000 points on her career on a three-point shot in the first quarter of the Mid-American Conference showdown.

“I’m just happy that it happened in a win,” Koker said. “My team has put me in great positions and my coaches do the same thing for me. It’s just a great opportunity. I’m so thankful that I’m here at NIU to have that happen.”

The Huskies demonstrated their ability at the foul line against the Zips, hitting 22-of-27 free throw attempts throughout the game. Akron lost the foul battle to the Huskies, accumulating 23 personal fouls compared to NIU’s 14.

Both teams remained fierce through the final minute as the lead switched hands four times between each side. After becoming the chasers, Akron fulfilled its role as the Zips came shot after shot in response to NIU’s attack.

“We knew it was going to be a 40-minute dogfight,” head coach Lisa Carlsen said. “I thought we had the right people taking the right shots. The thing I’m most proud of is our consistency from a composure standpoint throughout the course of 40 minutes.”

Junior forward A’Jah Davis sent the ball up for a layup for NIU’s first score of the game in the 26th second. Three quick lead changes ensued before Akron was able to stack scores, going up 10-4 with 5:47 remaining in the first quarter.

NIU began to narrow the Zips’ advantage with a three-point shot by junior guard Chelby Koker, the shot allowing her to achieve 1,000 career points. A 10-4 deficit soon transformed into a 17-16 for the home team as NIU went on a 13-6 scoring run.

The first quarter came to a close with a jumper scored by Akron redshirt senior forward Jordyn Dawson at the buzzer. The buzzer-beating shot allowed the Zips to reclaim an 18-17 lead heading into the second quarter.

The Huskies wasted no time in jumping back ahead as Davis added another layup to the score, going up 19-18 after 36 seconds of second-quarter action. Both teams continued to exchange scoring shots until NIU took a five-point lead thanks to a successful three-point shot. The Huskies led the Zips 41-31 to end the half.

Monday’s halftime score box reported Koker as the leader scoring in the first half. The junior Huskie went into the locker room with a 3-of-7 field goal shooting and 6-for-8 beyond the arc.

Starting with a layup by Akron’s Dawson 24 seconds out of the half, the Zips began to put a dent in the Huskies’ 10-point lead. Akron was able to cut the score to 47-42 with 6:37 remaining in the third quarter. NIU’s next score in the form of a Chelby Koker three-pointer enabled the Huskies to break into the 50s on the scoreboard.

Akron soon caught up with their Mid-American Conference foe as they took the score out to 53-52 in slight favor of the Huskie. A buzzer-beating shot from three-point land by Akron redshirt sophomore guard Layne Ferrell ended the third quarter with the scoreboard showing a narrow 57-55 advantage for NIU.

Junior guard Chelby Koker advances the ball past Akron freshman forward Raegan Bass during Monday’s victory in DeKalb. (Zulfiqar Ahmed)

Koker opened the final quarter of scoring with a successful three-point shot and a layup to recoup their winning margin. Redshirt senior guard Errin Hodges’ following steal-and-score forced an Akron timeout with 8:34 left to play, NIU leading 64-55.

The two-minute mark of the game came and went with the hosting Huskies up nine, 74-65. Four of NIU’s five final scores came from Koker’s successful free throws, the last coming with 26 seconds left. Akron junior guard Molly Neitzel got one last word in before the end of regulation as she scored a layup with 13 seconds left to play. Triple zeroes showed on the game clock, declaring NIU the victor.

The game finished its final act with Koker leading all scorers with 28 points to cap off a historic night in her NIU career. The junior recorded 6-of-11 shooting on field goals, hit 3-for-3 from behind the arc and made 13-of-15 free throws.

Monday’s victory brings NIU’s overall record to 6-9 and moves their Mid-American Conference record to 3-4. Akron drops to 7-6 overall and 4-3 MAC.

The Huskies remain at the Convocation Center for their upcoming bout against the 10-6 Kent State University Golden Flashes.

“The most important thing is for us to be the best versions of ourselves,” Carlsen said. “We’re going to prepare (Tuesday) for Kent State. The most important thing is that we continue to do what we do. If we do that, we have a real chance to have success.”

Tip-off for the game is scheduled for 11 a.m. CT Wednesday in DeKalb. The game will be available on ESPN3.