DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois women's basketball team won its home opener in thrilling fashion with a 91-84 two-overtime decision over Western Illinois Wednesday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
The last time the Huskies (1-1) reached the two-overtime mark was on February 18, 2003, at Bowling Green. That day, it took four overtimes for NIU to secure a 102-97 road win. While the Huskies didn't eclipse the 100-point plateau with the extra time, they did net over 90 points for the first time since a 93-88 overtime win at home versus Buffalo on January 23, 2010.
"For 50 minutes we really played hard," said NIU Head Coach Kathi Bennett. "I look at 91 points and that's pretty exciting for us, too. That's a lot to score in our first [home] game. I'm just really proud of the effort and energy. I can't say more about it."
With NIU nursing a 67-63 lead with 1:37 left in regulation, WIU (1-2) scored two straight baskets with the help of a pair of missed free throws by Amanda Corral (Hobart, Ind./Hobart) to tie the game with 27 seconds left. Danny Pulliam (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) had a chance to win it with 13 seconds left, but her jumper from the right wing was just off target.
The Huskies then held a 77-70 edge with 1:59 left in the first overtime but the Leathernecks rallied furiously to tie the game at 77 following a Sadie Webb jumper with seven seconds left. Once again, though, Pulliam just missed a floating shot from the right wing.
In the second overtime, however, Pulliam pulled through for the Huskies. Up 85-84, Pulliam connected on a shot from the left elbow to extend NIU's lead with 1:10 remaining. Following a missed shot on WIU's end, Pulliam then calmly sank a pair of free throws for an 89-84 lead with 56 seconds left. A few moments later, she made two more free throws to seal it and improve NIU to 34-21 all-time in home openers.
"We probably should have won the game in regulation and in the first overtime, but the energy and excitement to keep playing -- there's a difference between teams you know will have a hard time in overtime and are alright in overtime," Bennett said. "I thought we were resilient. I really liked the look they had when they knew they had to play extra minutes."
For the game, NIU posted advantages in shooting (44.6-33.8), rebounds (59-42), points in the paint (36-26) and bench points (30-13).
Jenna Thorp (Hinckley, Ill./Hinckley-Big Rock) led NIU with 18 points and nine rebounds, while shooting 6-for-8 from the field and 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Courtney Shelton (Rockford, Ill./Hononegah) turned in 17 points and six assists, displaying her long-range shooting with a 3-for-5 night from behind the arc. Claire Jakubicek (Cary, Ill./Cary-Grove) had 14 points and eight rebounds. Pulliam scored 12 and grabbed a career-high eight boards. Shaakira Haywood (Canton, Mich./Plymouth) had career-highs of 10 points and nine rebounds. Corral notched 10 points as well and had seven boards.
In the first half, NIU led by as many as 10 points before going to the locker room with a 37-34 lead.
The win improved the Huskies to 8-2 in home openers at the NIU Convocation Center.
The Huskies continue their season-long, three-game home stand Sunday, Nov. 20, at 3:30 PM CT against Temple.