March 6, 2007
CLEVELAND - The Northern Illinois University women's basketball team knocked off the No. 2 seed out of the East, Kent State, 72-68, in the quarterfinals of the 2007 Kraft MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena Tuesday.
"This was a huge win for our program," NIU head coach Carol Owens said. "The second half seemed like the longest second half ever, but I was very proud of our team at the beginning of the game. We were down 8-0 and we just stayed determined."
Sparked by the three-point shooting of sophomore guard Tara Michels, the Huskies (19-11) went on a 4:30 stretch from the end of the first half and beginning of the second where they hit six field goals, all three pointers.
Down 28-23 with 3:14 left to play in the first half, Michels drained a three to cut the Golden Flashes' lead to 28-26. On the Huskies' ensuing possession, Michels again connected on a three pointer to give the Huskies a 29-28 lead with 2:33. Michels scored her seventh straight point for the Huskies when she hit a free throw shot, giving NIU a 30-28 lead with 1:38 left to play in the first half.
After a Jamilah Humes' jumper tied the game at 30, Whitney Lowe hit the Huskies third-straight three with 25 seconds left to give the Huskies the lead for good. Jessie Wilcox added the fourth straight at the buzzer to give Northern Illinois a 36-30 lead at the break
The Huskies came out firing to open the second half of play. Stephanie Raymond hit yet another Huskie three-pointer pushing NIU's lead to 39-30. She added a couple of free throws to give the Huskies a 41-32 lead with 19:07 left to play. Wilcox hit her second three of the game to give the Huskies their largest lead of the game, 44-32 with 18:35 left to play.
Kent State made several runs throughout the second half, but the closest they could cut the deficit to was one, 63-62, with 1:24 left to play. Wilcox hit her third and final three of the game with 54 seconds left to put the Huskies up, 66-62, and seal the victory.
Raymond led the Huskies with 25 points, scoring her total from Sunday's game, 12, in the first half. Kristin Wiener posted her ninth double-double of the season scoring 13 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Wilcox also finished in double figures with 12 points. She was 3-9 from the field, all three pointers.
"This win really gives us great confidence going into the next game," Raymond said. "We lost to Ball State twice, but we are really looking forward to the challenge. I believe the seniors will com out with a lot of leadership."
"All year long we have had some slow starts, we just learned from that," Wiener said. "We realized that they were going to go on their runs and we just had to stay confident, knowing that we are the better team and get the job done."
Lowe and Michels came up big off the bench for NIU, combining to score 18 points. Lowe finished with nine points and grabbed career-high 11 rebounds, while Michels went 2-5 from the field, all threes, and 3-4 from the line to finish with nine points.
The Huskies advance to the semifinals of the MAC Tournament for the first time since the 2001-02 season to face Ball State Friday at 11 a.m. CST.