Feb. 15, 2006
DeKALB, IL -
Eastern Michigan University --- the Mid-American Conference West Division runaway leader --- stormed out to a 20-0 lead and never looked back en route to a 63-37 thrashing of the Northern Illinois University women*s basketball team.
The Eagles, winners in 13 of their last 14 games, had no trouble improving to 17-6 overall and 11-1 in league play while NIU lost a third straight game to drop to 9-14 overall and 5-7 in league play. The Huskies' single-worst half of basketball from a percentage basis coupled with EMU's defense led to a 34-10 halftime tally and no reason for first-year head coach Carol Owens to mince any words.
"Obviously we weren't ready to play. I'm very disappointed in how we came out,* Owens said. "We didn't rebound well, they got a lot of second-chance points. We didn't take care of the ball. We had a lot of unforced turnovers."
Making a horrific 18.2 percent (4-of-22) shooting effort worse was the fact that NIU ended the opening 20 minutes with more turnovers (16) than points. Included in that nightmarish figure was an 0-for-9 showing from beyond the three-point arch. While Northern Illinois got one shot off during its first seven possessions, Eastern Michigan scored on each of its first six possessions and ended the half a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arch plus 13-of-20 (65 percent) overall
"I thought Eastern put us on our heels, got a 6-0 lead right away. We were forced to call a timeout, but we just didn't bounce back quick enough until they were up 20. Eastern is a very good team, certainly one of the top three in our conference and they've got a lot of threats in (Ryan) Coleman, (Nikki) Knapp, (Patrice) McKinney and (Sarah) VanMetre."
That quartet accounted for all but seven of the Eagles' point total. Coleman, one of three returning First-Team All-MAC selections from a year ago, chalked up a game-high 17 points and was followed in order by VanMetre (15), Knapp (13) and McKinney (11). However, defense was EMU's best asset as the Eagles yielded a season-low 37 points.
"I was most impressed with our defensive effort. I thought we did a very nice job of defending the post, much better than we did the last game, I thought they got the best of us last game," EMU coach Suzy Merchant said in referring to the Eagles' 73-59 Jan. 7 victory in the Mid-Am opener for both teams which saw a 29-all halftime draw. "I thought we did a better job of defending double staggers, and those were a couple of our keys. I was really proud of our defensive focus and effort."
Between EMU's defense and Northern Illinois' offensive struggles, the Huskies' starting five produced a combined 20 points while the bench contribued 17. Starters Mary Basic (Lemont / Chicago Heights Marian Catholic) and Kristin Wiener (Apple Valley, MN / Academy of Holy Angels) both had seven points along with four from Stephanie Raymond (Rockford / Lutheran). NIU reserve Tara Michels (Dixon) was the lone Huskie in double figures with 11 points over a 17-minute playing stint. The red-shirt frosh equaled her career-high of 11 set during an 81-72 triple overtime victory over the University at Buffalo.
" We don't have time to really ponder over this, we've got a game on Saturday and the next two days we're going to get ready to play (Central Michigan University)," Owens promised. "Maybe I'll have to get my shorts on and get in there and battle, be physical and get them ready. They understand what happened today, there's not much I have to say to them about our performance. I thought some of our underclassmen came in and did all they could. Becky Smith (Janesville, WI / Parker) came off the bench and played hard. Tara gave us all she had. Jessie Wilcox (Oshkosh, WI / West) came in and didn't let up. They didn't play perfect, but they still had that fire in them and wanted to bring us back."
Nevertheless, Northern Illinois endured its worst defeat this year since top 25 program DePaul University dealt the Huskies a 43-point thumping (89-46) back on Dec. 12, 2005. Only the 27.3 percent shooting (15-of-55) at DePaul rates lower than the Huskies' final 28 percent tally (14-of-50) versus Eastern Michigan. Michels' three-pointer in the second half was the only long ball in 16 attempts for a frigid 6.7 percent showing from beyond the three-point arch. Northern Illinois' final count of 22 turnovers helped translate into a 22-6 Eagle advantage for points-off-turnovers. The Eagles also became the first MAC team to outrebound Northern Illinois (34-33), not counting a rebounding draw versus Ohio University.
Eastern Michigan continues a three-game road trip with visits to the University of Toledo and Western Michigan University while the Huskies hope to salvage a win in the year's only three-game homestand. NIU hosts Central Michigan on Saturday and then has two of its last three on the road. Saturday's tip-off with CMU is at 2:05 p.m.
(For further information, please contact Steve Nemeth) --NIU--