NIU women hand Bowling Green first MAC loss

Chelby Koker scored 18 points as the NIU women’s basketball team handed Bowling Green its first conference loss of the year, 78-71, at the Stroh Center on Saturday.

Paulina Castro’s career-best five 3-pointers led to a career-best 15 points, while Errin Hodges was 7 for 9 from the field for 14 points, tying a career-high set earlier this year at Bradley.

Emily Meinert added nine rebounds and 15 points.

“Paulina took great shots and she knocked down the shots we needed her to make today,” coach Lisa Carlsen said. “Emily’s physicality on both ends of the floor was critical today. She did a good job on the glass today and her 3 for 3 from three was a bonus.”

After a 16-16 first quarter, NIU (4-5, 2-2 MAC) got some separation from the Falcons (8-2, 4-1) behind back-to-back threes from Castro and Riley Blackwell which gave the Huskies a 27-22 lead with 6:41 to play in the second. The lead grew to seven at the 3:56 mark when Meinert and Jayden Marable combined for consecutive layups to make the score 33-26.

Bowling Green got as close as four but NIU ended the half on an 8-2 run with threes from Koker and Castro giving the Huskies a 41-31 lead at the break. NIU shot over 50 percent from the field in the first half and held the Falcons to 2-for-15 from the 3-point line.

The Falcons attempted one last run to get in the game, going on a 7-2 run over 2:20 to pull within five 72-67 with 0:52 to go. NIU made its free throws in the final minute to come away with the 78-71 win, the Huskies’ sixth straight victory against Bowling Green.

“I see the composure with this group as they continue to get more and more confident in what we’re asking them to do on the floor,” Carlsen said. “That’s huge because you can expect that every MAC game is going to be a highly contested ballgame. The more opportunities we have to learn and grow in those situations, the more likely that we can expect success.”