March 1, 2014
Game 26 - vs Eastern Michigan (Ypsilanti, Mich.)
Sunday, March 2 (1 p.m.)
Live Stats: EMUEagles.com
Radio: WLBK 98.9 FM; 1360 AM; NIUTube (12:45 p.m. pregame)
Play-by-Play: Andy Garcia
HUSKIES HUNTING FOR MAC TOURNAMENT HOSTING RIGHTS
Coming off of a victory versus Toledo at the NIU Convocation Center last Thursday, the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team will take on Eastern Michigan Sunday, March 2 in the EMU Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Mich. NIU, currently one spot ahead of the Eagles in eighth place in the MAC, owns the the tiebreaker over Eastern Michigan after defeating EMU on January 12, 77-54.
FOLLOW THE HUSKIES ALL SEASON LONG
Northern Illinois women’s basketball can be followed in a myriad of ways throughout the season. Audio of all of NIU’s games will be available for fans to listen to live and on-demand (subscription required). Play-by-play man Andy Garcia, now in his third year, will be on the call for the Huskies this season and is joined by former Huskie assistant coach Ethel Gregory during home games. Fans can also follow the team on Facebook and Twitter. Like “NIU Huskies” on Facebook and follow @GoHuskiesWBB and @NIUathletics on Twitter. Gameday updates and scores from all women’s basketball games can be found @NIUscores.
LAST TIME OUT
NIU hosted Toledo Thursday for a late morning matchup with the Rockets at the NIU Convocation Center. The Huskies entered the contest with revenge on its mind as it fell one Danny Pulliam layup short from forcing overtime at Savage Arena on January 9 to fall, 73-71. Northern Illinois controlled the first half of play as it displayed strength on both of offense and defense, buliding a 12-point lead halfway through the period and leading the Rockets at halftime, 26-24. Six different Huskies evenly contributed on offensive in the period as Amanda Corral scored eight points in the half. Toledo’s Ana Capotosto scored 11 points.
Northern Illinois played with the same zest in the opening four minutes of the second half until Toledo mounted a charge. The Huskies and Rockets exchanged the lead twice until UT built a seven point lead with six minutes remaining in regulation, 47-40. NIU would mount its own charge as it outscored Toledo 14-7 in the remaining minutes of the second half. With 23 seconds left, Pulliam broke a 52-52 tie with a layup, which forced Toledo’s Andola Dortch to sprint down the floor and tie it back up with a layup of her own with eight seconds left, 54-54. Corral had a shot at the win but the buzzer sounded in regulation before a shot could be taken.
In overtime, the Huskies dominated the Rockets as they outscored their foe 14-5 in the five minute frame to take the contest, 68-59. The NIU defense held UT to just 1-of-11 from the field in the stanza, a shooting percentage of .091. Corral finished with 20 points in the game to lead all scorers in the contest. Dortch led Toledo with 14 points after Capotosto failed to score in the remaining minutes after posting 11 points in the opening frame.
FOCUS. FINISH. EXECUTE.
In the last six minutes of regulation and five minutes of overtime versus Toledo on February 27, Northern Illinois was white-hot from field shooting 11-of-14 (.786), including 3-for-3 from behind the three-point line to outscore Toledo, 28-12. Alexis Lindstrom was 2-for-2 behind the arc, including one trey in overtime while Amanda Corral nailed the other three-point basket in overtime. NIU was 5-of-7 (.714) in the final six minutes of regulation.
OVERTIME - UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY FOR SOME HUSKIES
The Huskies played its first overtime game in almost two years last Thursday versus Toledo, last playing free basketball February 28, 2011 at Western Michigan, a 66-64 loss for Northern Illinois. After a dominating finish for NIU, the Huskies defeated UT, 68-59, to earn their first overtime victory since November 16, 2011 versus Western Illinois in double overtime, 91-84. Of the nine Huskies that played in the contest, three players -- freshmen Jazmine Harris and Ally Lehman, and sophomore Alexis Lindstrom -- had never played in an overtime game. Harris had four points in overtime, making two free throws and basket, while Lindstrom hit a three-pointer to kickstart an 8-0 run for NIU to start the period.
REMATCH - HUSKIES AND THE EAGLES
Sunday’s game will be the second meeting this season between Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan. NIU last played the Eagles on January 12 at the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb, both team’s third Mid-American Conference game of the 2013-14 season.
NIU controlled the first meeting both offensively and defensively, as it scored 36 points in the first half and held the Eagles to just 19 points and a field goal percentage of .219. The Huskies did not end there as they accounted for 41 points in the second half and built a 28 point in the lead in the frame. Northern Illinois would go on to win the contest, 77-54. Amanda Corral scored a career-high 30 points in the effort to lead all scorers. Post play was tremendous for NIU in the contest as it outscored the Eagles in the paint, 38-12, as Natecia Augusta and Jazmine Harris combined for 25 points. Jenna Thorp pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds, including 11 on the defensive glass. The NIU defense held Eastern Michigan to a field goal percentage of .295 in the game, the second lowest percentage allowed by a Northern Illinois this season. Janay Morton led the Eagle scorers with 13 points while EMU’s season-leading scorer Cha Sweeney only had 11 points on 4-of-13 shooting.
SCOUTING THE EAGLES
Eastern Michigan is 15-11 this season with a 5-10 mark in the Mid-American Conference. The Eagles opened the season strong with a 10-1 mark in non-conference but have been unable to find consistency in conference play. In its last five games, EMU has gone 2-3 with road wins at Ohio (Feb. 9), 68-55, and at Ball State (Feb. 23), 62-60. The Eagles have also posted victories over Kent State, home and away, and Western Michigan earlier this season. Eastern Michigan is averaging 76.5 points per game this season, 69.2 points in the MAC contests.
Freshman Cha Sweeney leads the squad in scoring at a rate of 16.6 points per game this season, the highest mark by a freshman in Eastern Michigan history. Sweeney is coming off of a 33-point performance versus the Broncos last time out in which she made 12 field goals. Olivia Fouty is the team’s third lead scorer with 11.2 points, but paces the team on the boards with 8.4 per game. Senior Desyree Thomas leads in assists per game with an average of 4.7, while also scoring 9.9 points per outing.
In the last three games, junior Amanda Corral has averaged 21.3 points game as she has posted 20-or-more points in each of those contests. The Hobart, Ind., native has done a majority of her damage in the field as she is shooting at an impressive rate of 27-of-53 (.509). Corral has scored at least 20 points in seven contests this season and owns the ninth-best average in the Mid-American Conference this season at 14.4 points per game.
Freshman Jazmine Harris has had her ups and downs throughout the season but has been one of the Huskies most exciting players off the bench in 23 games this season. In the last six games, Harris has averaged 10-points per game for Northern Illinois as she has posted double-figures three times in the recent stretch for her best six-game average of the season. She has posted two double-digit efforts in the last two games, scoring 14 points against Central Michigan on February 22 and 12 versus Toledo February 27. A big part of her scoring improvement has been her ability to get to the free throw line, where she has improved her average, going 16-for-22 (.727) at the line in the last six games, compared to her season average of .579. She entered the Toledo game with a free throw percentage of .511, before going 4-for-5.
MORE BEBOPPIN’ AND SKATTIN’ WITH JAZ
Against Toledo, Jazmine Harris posted several season-highs in the game as she played a vital role in the Huskies first victory over the Rockets since 2011. Harris pulled down a season-high nine rebounds, seven off the defensive glass to set career-highs in both categories. The freshman also played 24 minutes in the 45 minute overtime contest, surpassing her previous longest outing of 19 minutes against Northern Iowa on December 21.
POUNDING THE PAINT
The Huskies have had their tendencies this season and scoring down in the paint has been a strength of the team. Through 25 games this year, NIU has averaged 25 points in the paint per game. 20 times this season Northern Illinois has accumulated 20-or-more points and has scored 30-or-more five times. The Huskies had their second-best performance in the paint against Central Michigan on February 22 as they scored 40 points in the post. NIU also accounted for 32 points under the basket, to give the Huskies a 36.0 point per game average in the paint the last two contests.
SHE’S HEATING UP...
Sophomore Alexis Lindstrom has shot with confidence from behind the three-point line over the last seven games for the Huskies as Lindstrom has hit .462 of her shots, draining 18-of-39 shots attempted. Last time out, Lindstrom was 4-of-5 from behind the line to tie season-highs in three-point shots made and points with 14. Heading into this run of good form, Lindstrom only made 3-of-12 shots attempted in the previous five games.
On February 22 versus Central Michigan, Northern Illinois converted 31 field goals against the Chippewas -- a brand new season-high for NIU. The Huskies also set a new high for field goals in a half, accounting for 19 in the second period against the Chips en route to a 44-point period.
The Northern Illinois bench has been playing large for the Huskies over the last six games, combining for 132 points in that span, a +46 margin and 22.0 point per game average over their opponents 86 (14.3 ppg). Sophomore Alexis Lindstrom has led the NIU bench players in four of those games and is averaging 8.5 points over that period, while freshman Jazmine Harris is pacing the squad with 10.0 points per game off the bench with three games of 12-or-more points. Ashley Sneed contributed to the team’s bench output as she scored 12 against Central Michigan on February 22.
WILLIAM TELL RETURNS
The Northern Illinois offense has posted its best three game field goal percentage over the last three games since the Huskies first three games of the Mid-American Conference season. As a team in the last three games, the Huskies are shooting .475 with their clip of 88-for-185 against Akron, Central Michigan and Toledo --- just short of their .491 average (83-of-169) to open the conference schedule versus Ohio, Toledo and Eastern Michigan.
THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Heading into the game against Toledo on February 27, Northern Illinois had eight wins on the season. In everyone of those victories, the Huskies had outrebounded their opponents, carrying an 8-4 record on the season when accomplishing the feat. For the first time all season, NIU earned victory over an opponent when it fell below its opponents mark in boards as the Rockets crashed 41 boards, compared to Northern Illinois’ 35. However, the Huskies did outrebound UT on the defensive glass, 30-27.
40-POINTS TO FREEDOM
On February 22 against CMU, the Huskies accounted for 44 points in the second half of the game, the eighth time NIU has scored 40-or-more points in a half. While it’s not always the route to victory for Northern Illinois, it has proven to show more success for the Huskies as they are 5-3 when scoring 40-or-more points in the first or second half of games. NIU has scored only once scored more than 40 points in the first half of a game, doing so in the home-opener versus Mississippi Valley State on November 12, when NIU defeated the Devillettes, 79-60. The Huskies only losses when accomplishing the feat have been to MAC foes Akron, Central Michigan and Toledo.
In the second half of the Huskies Mid-American Conference games, Amanda Corral has been NIU’s go to player as she is averaging 8.2 points in the period and shooting .484 from the field at a rate of 45-for-93. Collectively, Northern Illinois has shot .431 during the second half in their last 15 games.
KEEPING TRACK - NIU IN RETURN GAMES
The Huskies are playing their fifth return game of the Mid-American Conference season Sunday at Eastern Michigan, after starting their return schedule February 15 at Buffalo. After going 4-7 in its first round of games, NIU is 1-3 in return games thus far after defeating Toledo last Thursday in overtime, 68-59. As junior Natecia Augusta put it in an interview before the Central Michigan on January 15, “one of our goals this season is to at least one game versus each of our conference opponents, or win both.” While NIU will have to wait until the MAC Tournament to accomplish that feat versus Akron, Buffalo and Central Michigan, the Huskies will have the chance to finish strong with a potential 4-3 record in return games wit Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Ball State left on the slate.
FIVE TIMES THE FUN... TWO TIMES
NIU had five players reach double-figures against Central Michigan on February 22, marking the second time this season that Northern Illinois had accomplished the feat, last doing so against Ohio in the MAC-opener on January 4. It was the first time since 2006-07 that Northern Illinois had two games with five scorers in double-digits as the Huskies did so January 1, 2007 versus Cincinnati and again on January 17, 2007 at Bradley.
Versus the Chippewas last Saturday, three starters and two NIU bench players reached the plateau, while four starters and one bench player reached the mark against the Bobcats in the conference-opener. Jazmine Harris and Ashley Sneed led the Huskie bench with 14 and 12 points, respectively, while Amanda Corral paced the lineup with 23 points. Natecia Augusta and Jenna Thorp each added 12 points.
A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME?
As discussed in the previous note, the last time Northern Illinois had five scorers reach double figures in two games prior to this season was in 2006-07. That season, the Huskies made a run in the Mid-American Conference Tournament as they reached the tournament semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio before falling to Ball State, 83-72. Fast forwarding to 2014, the Huskies are within reach of hosting a first round contest in the Mid-American Conference Tournament as they currently sit in ninth place in the MAC. The Nos. 5-8 teams in the conference host the first round games of the MAC Tournament while the top-four seeds earn a first round bye in the tournament, automatically starting their postseason in Cleveland.
Over the last three games, the Huskies have averaged 73.3 points per game, NIU’s best three-game average of the season since November 21-30 against Bradley and at the Aggie Hotel Encanto Thanksgiving Classic at New Mexico State when Northern Illinois was averaging 71.0 points per game. In the Huskies recent scoring spell, they amassed 75 points at Akron, 77 versus Central Michigan and 68 points against Toledo while accounting for 63 clams versus the Braves, 73 points against the Aggies and 79 versus the Cardinals in November.
CORRAL ENTERS 1,000 POINT CLUB
Entering Northern Illinois’ game against Central Michigan on February 22, junior Amanda Corral only needed four points to reach the 1,000-point mark in her decorated three year career in DeKalb. 3:25 into the Huskies contest versus CMU, the guard scored her 1,000th point as she hit a jump shot inside the paint to reach 1,000 career points. She eventually ended with 23 points, surpassing the 20-point mark for the sixth time this season. Corral became the 26th member of the 1,000-point club at Northern Illinois and the first since Marke Freeman (2008-11) on January 8, 2011 versus Central Michigan to reach the career milestone.
THE BEST OF BENNETT
In her fourth year at the helm of the Northern Illinois women’s basketball program, Head Coach Kathi Bennett has found the best combination of offense and defense, based on averages. This year’s squad is the Huskies top-offensive unit under Bennett -- averaging 62.5 points per game -- five points higher than the previous-best mark on offense, set in her first season (2010-11). While 64.4 points is the highest point total allowed by a Bennett squad in her time at NIU, it is the second-lowest total allowed in the Mid-American Conference this season behind Bowling Green’s 55.9 average. NIU owns its best shooting percentage under Bennett this season with an average of .411 and the squad’s lowest turnover average at 13.3 turnovers per outing, almost four few turnovers per game than the best average.
THE CONFIDENCE BUILDER
In the second half at Akron, Northern Illinois had its best shooting half in a game, .586, since the Mid-American Conference opener versus Ohio on January 4 when NIU was .591 in the second half. The Huskies were 17-of-28 from the field in the second stanza, the most field goals made since NIU made 18 in the second half at Toledo on January 9.
THE FRESHMAN’S ASSIST FRENZY
Freshman Ally Lehman has been on a terror as the Huskies second point guard since the start of Mid-American Conference play as she is the team’s leader in assists at 41 helpers through 15 games, an average of 2.8 per game. Team assist leader, Danny Pulliam, who has accounted for 76 assists in 25 games, has recorded 44 helpers in 15 MAC games. In the last eight games, the Nineveh, Ind., native has accounted for 20 helpers -- an average of 2.8 per game. At Buffalo on February 15, Lehman distributed a career-high six assists, while only turning the ball over three times to lead NIU in assists against the Bulls. She owns the top assist to turnover ratio in conference games among MAC freshman, as well as the most assists amongst MAC freshman. Her 54 assists this season is the most by a Northern Illinois freshman since Stephanie Raymond in 2003-04. Raymond (2003-07) would go on to become the 20th overall pick by the Chicago Sky in the 2007 WNBA Draft, playing one season with the Sky. Raymond finished her freshman year with 78 helpers in 27 games, an average of 2.9 assists per game. Lehman is currently on pace to finish the season with 67.2 assists.
The Huskies will hit the road for its final road game of the season when it takes on Ball State Wednesday, March 5 at 6 p.m. Central. Northern Illinois will be seeking revenge in this game as well as NIU fell to the Cardinals in the first meeting February 9, 63-50.