March 7, 2009
Box Score in PDF Format
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The Northern Illinois University women's basketball team posted its first victory at Western Michigan since 1986, defeating the Broncos, 73-69, in a hard-fought game Saturday afternoon at University Arena.
"I felt we came to play," NIU head coach Carol Owens said. "This was our last regular season game. I just felt our team was focused on winning this game together."
Leading 71-69 with 13 seconds left in the game, NIU's (15-14, 10-6) Ebony Ellis (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Township), a 50 percent free throw shooter, was sent to the line and made two clutch free throws to give the Huskies a four-point lead and eventually the victory.
"I have to credit my staff, in particular, Molly Murray, for working with Ebony," she said. "I see her shooting 50 free throws every day after practice. She works at it [her free throw shooting]."
Down 56-46 with 9:33 left to play, the Broncos (7-22, 3-13) outscored the Huskies 21-12 during a seven-minute stretch to pull within one, 68-67 with 2:37 left in the contest. A layup by Ellis with two minutes to go gave NIU a three-point cushion, but Western's Miame Giden made two free throws with 1:36 left to play to pull within one, 70-69.
"I knew it was only a matter of time before they made their run," Owens said. "A lot of their games this year have been relatively close. We knew we had the experience down the stretch to get to the free throw line and make crucial shots."
Aileen Rossouw (Plano, Texas/Plano) made the first of a one and one to give the Huskies a two-point lead with under a minute to play. A defensive stop by the Huskies effectively ended the Bronco threat and secured the victory. While the Broncos made a charge, the never led in the contest.
Senior Jessie Wilcox (Oshkosh, Wis./West) led the way for Northern Illinois, with 24 points, scoring 15 in the first half, tying her career high. Wilcox went 9-for-16 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Shari' Welton (Calumet City, Ill./Thornwood) turned in her third straight double digit scoring performance finishing with 14 points.
The Huskie defense stepped up in first half, holding the Broncos without a field goal through the first 10 minutes of the game and limited WMU to 32.1 percent shooting from the field in the first half.
The Huskies out-shot Western Michigan, 48.1 percent to 46.4 percent from the field. NIU helped themselves at the free throw line shooting 81 percent, going 17-21 from the charity stripe. Rossouw scored six of her eight points from the free throw line, going 6-for-8.
With the victory Saturday, the Huskies posted their best MAC record since 2001-02 when NIU also finished 10-6.
The Huskies return to the court Wednesday, when Northern Illinois travels to Cleveland to take on Buffalo in the first round of the 2009 Mid-American Conference Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena Wednesday.