Huskies survive home bout with Eagles

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Alexander Pyevich

NIU sophomore guard Jayden Marable maneuvers past EMU freshman guard Kyndal Lewis during Wednesday’s conference matchup at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. Marable finished the game with 12 points, the fourth-best scorer for the Huskies in the 72-65 victory over the Eagles. (Alexander Pyevich/Northern Star)

By Skyler Kisellus, Sports Editor

The women’s basketball team completed the sweep against the Eastern Michigan University Eagles Wednesday, defeating them 72-65 at the Convocation Center in DeKalb.

The last time the Mid-American Conference rivals faced off on Jan. 22, NIU prevailed 85-76 to bring the series record to 22-13 in favor of Eastern Michigan.

Women's basketball
Graduate guard Nia Ahart attempts a shot from behind the 3-point line during Wednesday’s victory over Eastern Michigan University. Ahart was the leading scorer for NIU as she accumulated 20 points in the conference victory at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. (Alexander Pyevich/Northern Star)

How it happened

NIU sprung out to a 10-2 lead in just over four minutes to begin the game. Graduate guard Nia Ahart put together a string of 3-pointers in the waning minutes of the first quarter, making three within two-and-a-half minutes.

NIU racked up 28 more points in the second quarter. The teams entered their locker rooms with the Huskies ahead 38-26. Ahart led NIU’s first-half scoring with 11 points, followed by 10 points each from junior forward A’Jah Davis and sophomore guard Jayden Marable.

Eastern Michigan spent the second half chipping away at its deficit. NIU attempted to contain these efforts as they maintained a three-score advantage for just under eight minutes. The Eagles proceeded to take off on an 8-0 scoring run to cut the EMU deficit to two, 54-52, with 2:07 left in the third. The Huskies remained ahead 56-52 heading into the fourth quarter.

EMU eventually tied the score 63-63 with 3:38 left to play. NIU redshirt senior guard Janae Poisson nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to pull the Huskies back ahead 69-63. A 3-pointer by Ahart with 31 seconds left sealed the Huskies’ victory over the Eagles.

Ahart led all NIU scores on the night with 20 points, 18 coming from 3-point land. Davis finished two points behind Ahart with 18 points, followed by Poisson’s 17.

Thoughts from coach Carlsen

Head coach Lisa Carlsen on team’s shooting performance:

“We had great balance,” Carlsen said. “Nia (Ahart) hit some huge shots, Janae (Poisson) hit some huge shots. We really needed that balance.”

Carlsen on keys to winning out:

“The biggest key is always going to be the next 40 minutes,” Carlsen said. “We gotta take care of our business and see what happens. If we do that, we’re gonna be in a good position.”

Thoughts from the players

Ahart on defensive performance:

“Coming out with defensive intensity made it easier for us and more confident for us on the offensive end,” Ahart said.

Davis on effects of efficient shooting on her ability to perform:

“Once (shooters) start hitting some big shots, (opponents) can’t double me as much.”

The end result

The 72-65 victory takes NIU to a 12-13 overall record and 8-8 against the MAC. The Huskies sit at seventh place in the conference two weeks out from the quarterfinals round of the MAC Women’s Basketball Tournament on Mar. 9.

Eastern Michigan left the Convocation Center with a record of 7-17 overall and 4-14 in conference play. The all-time series between the Huskies and Eagles now stands at 22-14 with EMU ahead.

Looking ahead

NIU has one home game left on its schedule as they host Central Michigan University for their season finale on Mar. 5 at 1 p.m. Before that, the Huskies will embark on their final road trip of the season, playing two games on the road against Ball State University and the University of Toledo.

Their next matchup against Ball State University for an intraconference showdown between the Huskies and Cardinals is set to begin at noon Saturday in Muncie, Indiana. The game will be available on ESPN3.