Defense the key as women's basketball defeats Central Michigan, 49-43



January 22, 2003


Box score

DeKALB, IL---Lindsay Secrest (Bloomfield, IN) scored eight of her team-high 11 points in the final eight minutes as Northern Illinois outlasted Central Michigan, 49-43, in Mid-American Conference women's basketball action here Wednesday (Jan. 22).

Kristan Knake (Marengo) and Monique Davis (Columbus, OH / Marion-Franklin) added ten apiece as the Huskies climbed to 6-10 overall and 2-3 in the conference. Central Michigan dropped its fourth game in a row, falling to 7-10 with a 1-5 league ledger.

"Our team showed a lot of character tonight," Northern Illinois coach Carol Hammerle said. "We had times where the ball didn't go in the hole during the first half. In the past, we would have panicked, but we didn't do that tonight. We stuck together as a team and played great defense."

That defense held the Chippewas to 29.6 percent (16-of-54) shooting from the field. CMU had just one basket in the final 5:23---Erin Kuhl's three-pointer at the final horn. Northern Illinois forced 17 turnovers and out-rebounded Central Michigan 39-35, led by a season-best 14 boards from Jennifer Youngblood (Rock Island).

At the outset, NIU's shooting was as frigid as the eight-degree weather outside the Convocation Center as the Huskies missed their first ten attempts from the floor. Knake's 18-footer out front snapped that streak, but the Chippewas built a 16-3 lead on Casey Manning's seven-footer at the 11:16 mark. The lead held at 13 points (18-5) before the Huskies closed the half on an 11-4 run---sparked by back-to-back tri-lighters from Secrest and Knake---to close to within 22-16 at intermission.

Northern Illinois missed 21 of 27 shots (22.2 percent) in the opening 20 minutes, while CMU hit eight of 24 shots. No player had more than five points at the break.

The Huskies employed a full-court press to start the second half, scoring five consecutive points before Kuhl connected on a three-pointer. Knake came back with a triple of her own to give the hosts their first lead of the night (27-25) with 16:18 to play, but seven consecutive points temporarily put the Chippewas back in control.

CMU held a 37-33 advantage on Kuhl's tri-lighter with 7:48 to play, but Secrest hit two three-pointers during an 8-0 rush to put Northern Illinois in command. Her third trey of the night stretched the gap to 41-37, and the Huskies never looked back.

"Our team's history has been to allow the other team to get four or six points to start the second half," Hammerle noted. "We haven't been able to match the opposition's intensity. So I thought we would start with the pressure, and that paid big dividends for us."

Secrest had averaged 5.8 points per game in NIU's first ten contests this year, but is now at 12.2 per outing in five MAC games since joining the starting line-up.

"If I'm out on defense first, I can get my rhythm going," the junior forward explained. "When I was coming off the bench, I would try to make a difference right away and couldn't always get into the flow of the game. Tonight, I just wanted a chance to score."

"We were much more patient in the second half," Hammerle added. "At first, we were rushing and making poor decisions on what to do with the ball. But in the second half we showed a lot more poise."
Youngblood scored just four points but held CMU forward Desiree Eidson---the league's sixth-leading scorer at 15 points per game---to just two tallies and seven rebounds. Knake had a game-high five assists and Davis collected five steals.

Northern Illinois soared to 52 percent (11-of-21) shooting in the second half, but still finished at a mere 35.4 percent for the evening. That was good enough, however, as CMU's rate was the lowest by a Huskie opponent since Wisconsin shot just 25.9 percent in the season-opener on November 22. Kuhl was the lone Chippewa in double figures with 13 points.

NIU concludes a two-game homestand Saturday (Jan. 25) when Marshall comes to DeKalb for a 3:05 p.m. matinee. The Thundering Herd dropped to 5-10 with a 67-63, non-conference loss to West Virginia on Wednesday, MU's fourth consecutive loss.

-30- -- Copy by Robert Hester