DEKALB – The Northern Illinois women’s basketball team battled Central Michigan from tip off to the final buzzer in Wednesday’s night Mid-America East Conference game but still ended up being edged by the Chippewas, 81-78.
With 6.6 seconds left to play, Courtney Woods banked in a layup to pull the Huskies within 1, 78-79. Central Michigan called a time out. When play resumed, NIU wasted no time in fouling Chippewas’ Presley Hudson, who made both of her free throws to widen the gap to 81-78.
Huskie coach Lisa Carlsen immediately called her own time out to set up the last play. Mikayla Voigt inbounded the ball from NIU’s forecourt with 5.4 seconds left. The ball was passed to Woods, on the right wing, who squared up just behind the 3-point line and fired a shot. The ball bounced off the rim. The Huskies rebounded the ball but could not get off another shot before time expired.
“Obviously we are not happy with the outcome. I think we are probably going to go back and look at the film and be pretty happy with a lot of possessions but our margin for error just isn’t very much when you play a team that good,” Carlsen said. ”A few turnovers here and there, a few second chance opportunities that they had were probably the difference in the ball game.”
The Huskies got off to a good start leading 19-14 after the first quarter and 37-34 at half time. Central Michigan (14-3, 6-0 MAC) took its first lead at the 4:07 mark of the second quarter on a Reyna Frost bucket, the first of seven lead changes. NIU (10-7, 2-4) retook to lead at the end of the half on 3 treys in a row, one by Gabby Nikitinaite and two by Woods.
The lead continued to see-saw between the teams in the third quarter. Central Michigan appeared to be pulling away late in the third quarter, extending its lead to eight points, the largest of the night.
The Huskies, trailing 62-56 at the start of the fourth quarter, managed to tie the game twice in the last 10 minutes, but could never retake the lead.
By the numbers: Three Huskies hit double figures. Wood led all players with 25, while Kelly Smith tallied 21 and Voigt notched 15. Woods also pulled down 10 rebounds. Central Michigan had four players in double digits: Tinara Moore, 18; Micaela Kelly 22: Hudson 14 and Reyna Frost, 19.
Beyond the stats: Even though Central Michigan had the height advantage on the inside with 6 foot 3 Moore, the Chippewas only out rebounded the Huskies, 37-36.
They said it: “You don’t play the game at this level for moral victories but that is really good Central team that we took to the wire,” said Carlsen.
Up next: The Huskies host Eastern Michigan on Saturday.