DeKALB — Turnovers and an inability to score in opportune situations Thursday led to the demise of the women’s basketball team. NIU lost 78-65 to the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Panthers, falling to 3-5 on the season.
NIU had control most of the game, leading for over 30 minutes, but the team collapsed in the fourth quarter. UWM forced five turnovers and knocked down 50% of its shots to take the lead with 3:10 left in the quarter.
UWM was led by sophomore guard Sydney Levy with 27 points, including eight 3-point shots while coming off the bench. Bench play from the Panthers was key in the victory, outscoring NIU’s bench 42-16.
Redshirt senior forward Courtney Woods and first-year guard Grace Hunter each scored 19 points for the Huskies. This was Hunter’s first start of her NIU career. She showed promise, knocking down 50% of her 3-point field goals.
Outside of Hunter’s performance, NIU did not have a great game from 3-point territory, only making seven of 29 attempts. To combat that, the Huskies scored 30 points in the paint and made 75% of their free throws.
“Teams obviously are going to try to run our shooters off the line,” Head Coach Lisa Carlsen said. “I thought they did a nice job against [Woods] and [first-year guard Chelby Koker], forcing them off the line by making them put the ball on the floor. Then we had some looks that we would take again that did not go in.”
NIU took an early lead to start the game, outscoring UWM 7-2 through the first five minutes of the first quarter. The lead grew to 14-7 after a transition 3-pointer by redshirt junior forward Paulina Castro.
At the start of the second quarter, NIU extended its lead to 22-13 on a 6-2 scoring run capped by a layup from junior forward Riley Blackwell.
The Panthers cut the deficit to 32-28 heading to the halftime break on a field goal by redshirt senior guard Alyssa Fischer.
Coming out of half time, NIU seemed poised to put the game out of reach early in the third quarter. UWM hung tough though, and held the lead briefly, 46-45, with 2:24 left in the quarter.
NIU took back the lead 51-49 on a three pointer by Koker with four seconds left in the third quarter.
The Huskies did not fare well in the fourth quarter, as they only scored only 14 points and shot 31.6% from the floor.
UWM on the other hand, thrived in the fourth, shooting 58.3% from the floor and scoring 29 points to close out the game.
“The fourth quarter was a rough one for us,” Carlsen said. “[The Panthers] got really hot; they did a nice job from 3-point range and hit their free throws down the stretch.”
The Panthers went on to win the game 78-68, led by Levy who scored nine points and grabbed two rebounds in the fourth quarter.
NIU returns to the court 7 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Convocation Center against the Eastern Illinois University Panthers.