CHARLESTON, IL – The Northern Illinois University women’s basketball team made a school-record 18 three-pointers Friday afternoon to come from behind and earn an 82-72 win over the Eastern Illinois Panthers in the Compass Challenge at First Mid Court at Lantz Arena.
“I liked our looks early in the game and we just were not hitting them, so we weathered the storm a little bit,” said head coach Lisa Carlsen following the Huskies’ first win of the 2020-21 season. “We were able to string some stops together and then our shooting became contagious. Once we hit a couple and settled in, we got everybody involved.”
The previous school record for threes in a game was 15, set three times most recently against Ohio on Jan. 22, 2020. Sophomore guard Grace Hunter (Monroeville, Ind./Bellmont) led four Huskies in double-figure scoring with 17 points, going a perfect 5-for-5 from the three-point line to set a career-high for three-pointers in a game. Chelby Koker (Racine, Wis./Shoreland Lutheran) had 16 points with four threes and made all four of her free throws. Janae Poisson (Matteson, Ill./Marian Catholic) also had four threes on Friday on her way to 15 points and three assists off the bench. Paulina Castro (Elgin, Ill./Harvest Christian) led all players with a career-high seven assists and scored 13 points.
After trailing by as much as 15 in the first half, NIU (1-1) used a 9-2 run to close the second quarter and get within six points of Eastern Illinois 33-27. The Huskies opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run as Mikayla Brandon’s (Bourbonnais, Ill./Bradley-Bourbonnais) three at the 7:19 mark gave NIU its first lead of the game, 34-33. The Panthers tied the game at 39-39 with 5:09 remaining in the quarter but threes from Poisson and Riley Blackwell (Plainfield, Ind./Plainfield) gave NIU a 45-41 edge with under four minutes to go. Eastern Illinois got as close as three before a Castro triple sparked an 11-4 run to close the quarter and gave NIU a 61-51 lead heading into the fourth. The Huskies outscored Eastern Illinois 34-18 in the third, making 8-of-9 three-pointers while shooting 66.7 percent from the field.
NIU grew its lead to 16 early in the fourth quarter as back-to-back threes from Castro and Koker put the Huskies ahead 67-51 with 8:50 to play in the game. Hunter gave NIU its largest lead of the game at the 7:45 mark as her fifth three of the day put NIU up 17, 72-55. The Huskies’ defense held Eastern Illinois to 1-for-8 shooting from the three-point line in the fourth quarter to thwart any chances at a comeback.
The Huskies finished the game shooting 50 percent from the three-point line and 43.9 percent from the field. NIU’s defense bounced back from allowing the Panthers to make four of their first seven three-point attempts to hold them to 7-for-23 for the game. The Huskies were also able to turn 15 Eastern Illinois turnovers into 22 points. NIU also shared the ball to the tune of 18 assists on 25 made baskets.
“Sharing the basketball is something we really pride ourselves in,” Carlsen said. “We continued to stick with how we want to play throughout the whole 40 minutes and obviously had a lot of success.”
Eastern Illinois (1-2) was led in scoring by Abby Wahl’s game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds.