Knake matches career-high with 29 but Wisconsin-Milwaukee holds on for 69-64 women's basketball victory



December 4, 2002


Box Score

MILWAUKEE, WI---Jessica Wilhite scored a game-high 31 points---including eight three-pointers---and Wisconsin-Milwaukee staved off a furious second-half rally to defeat Northern Illinois 69-64 in non-conference women's basketball action here Wednesday (Dec. 4).

Kristan Knake (Marengo) scored 25 of her career-best 29 points in the second half, leading Northern Illinois back from a 16-point deficit, but the Huskies' comeback attempt fell short as Northern Illinois dropped to 2-3 on the season. Wisconsin-Milwaukee improved to an identical 2-3 mark after defeating NIU for the fifth consecutive year.

The Panthers took control of the game early as back-to-back triples from Wilhite started a 12-0 run to give UWM a 16-4 lead just 4:31 into the contest. The margin swelled to 15 points when Kimberly Becker's bucket created a 28-13 cushion at the midpoint of the half and Northern Illinois could get no closer than ten points before intermission, with Wisconsin-Milwaukee claiming a 38-27 advantage at the break.

Wilhite scored all 12 of her first-half points behind the arc while fellow senior Maria Viall controlled the paint. Viall (12 points) and Becker (six) combined to hit eight of 13 shots in the opening 20 minutes, powering the Panthers to 53.6 percent (15-of-28) accuracy in the first half. The Huskies were just 13-of-33 (39.4 percent) from the field, with Lindsay Secrest (Bloomfield, IN) hitting NIU's lone three-pointer.

Another Wilhite tri-lighter stretched the lead to 43-27 before Knake answered for Northern Illinois. Her jumper snapped a 4:02 drought to open the half and the senior guard single-handedly kept the visitors in the contest. Knake had the Huskies' first seven points of the second frame before her teammates joined the scoring parade, and a Knake triple finished a 7-0 run, pulling Northern Illinois to within 52-45 with seven minutes to play.

Viall canned one free throw and Wilhite pounced on the rebound of the second attempt, burying her seventh three-pointer to bring the margin back to double digits. Knake stepped forward again with back-to-back treys, cutting the margin to 64-59 with 1:45 left but Wilhite hit two free throws and Viall's lay-up at the one-minute mark gave the hosts a seemingly-safe 68-59 lead,

Knake split two defenders for her fifth trey seven seconds later and hit another jumper after a Wisconsin-Milwaukee turnover to pull the visitors within five points. Joi Scott (Reynoldsburg, OH) intercepted the Panthers' inbounds pass but missed a lay-up that would have trimmed the deficit to two points, and Secrest's follow-up attempt also went awry. Wilhite's free throw with seven-tenths of a second remaining for the final margin.

Knake was 12-of-20 from the field including five-of-seven behind the arc, equaling her collegiate best of 29 points set at Miami (OH) University on Jan. 19, 2002. But her teammates scored just 12 points after the break, with Jennifer Youngblood (Rock Island) held to two points and three rebounds over the final 20 minutes. She finished with ten points and ten boards while Kim Boeding (Fort Madison, IA) tallied eight points for the Huskies.

"Kristan worked hard at both ends of the court and really kept us in the game in the second half," NIU coach Carol Hammerle said. "She's got the ability to do that, and I always feel we have to get back up against the wall before we start doing things. Need to find some consistency on offensive end, and need to re-group and be more focused defensively."

Wilhite was supported by Viall's 17 points and 10 rebounds plus eight points from Becker. The Panthers made only 10 of 26 shots in the second half (38.5) percent to finish at 46.2 percent for the night, but out-rebounded Northern Illinois 37-27. Viall blocked five shots.

"Normally, I would say that two players can't beat a team. But Wilhite and Viall did exactly that tonight," Hammerle admitted. "It's obvious that (UWM's) players know their roles, and they played well as a team. Unfortunately, we didn't play well the first five minutes and dug ourselves a hole. We didn't come out with the intensity to make defensive stops. We played with more intensity in the second half and our pressure got us going."

The Huskies employed a full-court press for much of the second half, forcing 14 Panther turnovers in the final 20 minutes after Wisconsin-Milwaukee had just five miscues in the opening half.

Northern Illinois committed a season-low 12 turnovers and shot 41.8 percent (28-of-67) for the night but attempted only three free throws. NIU did not go to the line in the first half, the second time in the Huskies' last three games that has happened. Wisconsin-Milwaukee was 11-of-18 at the charity stripe.

The Huskies return home Saturday (Dec. 7) to face instate rival Illinois State at the Convocation Center. That 4:05 p.m. contest is NIU's first home date since the (Nov. 22) season-opener versus Wisconsin, and the lone DeKalb stop in a four-week span prior to a (Dec. 20) contest versus Bradley.

-30- -- Copy by Robert Hester