Huskies convincingly hand Chippewas first MAC loss of season

The Northern Illinois University women’s basketball team came out firing on all cylinders during Wednesday’s Mid-American Conference game against Central Michigan University at the NIU Convocation Center.

The Huskies scored the first 11 points of the game, and the Chippewas never had an answer as the hosts won, 104-73, for their third straight victory.

“That’s definitely a team win,” Huskies coach Lisa Carlsen said. “We had a ton of people step up and really play well. I thought our energy was consistent throughout the entire 40 minutes regardless of what the score was. We just beat a really good Central Michigan team.”

The Chippewas (7-3, 5-1 MAC) had been perfect in the MAC, but after Chelby Koker drilled the second of the Huskies’ 15 3-pointers with 4:38 left in the first quarter, the Huskies led, 17-5, and they maintained a double-digit lead the remainder of the game.

Koker was one of six Huskies to score in double figures.

“We definitely did not want to let this get away from us, so I think all of us on the bench and the people on the floor wanted to stay locked in and make sure our energy didn’t dip from any of the game,” she said.”I think that was key. We didn’t do anything differently, but it felt like there was a lot of energy, especially coming off the last Bowling Green game [a 78-71 win].”

Shooting the ball extremely well beyond the 3-point arc and having five players connect on two or more attempts from long-range resulted in a 15-for-28 (54%) performance, one that Central Michigan could not counter.

“Offense is contagious, and we got a couple good looks early and knocked down a couple shots early, and from there it really snowballed,” Carlsen said. “And it stayed fairly consistent throughout the entire 40 [minutes]. Basketball is a funny game; it’s a game of runs, and it just seemed like when we got the open look, you can almost count that it was going to go in.”

Forward Mikayla Brandon led the way for the Huskies with a career-high 18 points.

The junior from Bourbonnais acknowledged that she committed herself to improving her long-range shot. It was on display, much to the Chippewas’ dismay, as she knocked down 4 of 5 from distance.

“In the offseason, working on 3s is definitely something I put an emphasis on,” she said. “The first two years [at NIU], I didn’t shoot the ball like I wanted to, and I knew with the people we had leaving last year, I would have to step up and have a little bigger role this year. I just did what I could and got the shots up that I needed to.”

A’Jah Davis and Koker each contributed 14 points, Paulina Castro made four 3-pointers to finish with 12 points, and Janae Poisson and Grace Hunter both chipped in with 11 points. Davis added 12 rebounds as the Huskies enjoyed a 47-34 rebounding edge.

“It’s a lot of fun when you have five people on the floor that can score the ball, and that gives the defense big trouble if all five of us can score the ball,” Brandon said. “I just kept shooting. I haven’t been shooting really well lately, and I don’t think Coach will continue to put me on the floor if I don’t continue to take open shots, and that’s what I did, and today they just happened to go in.”

Miceaela Kelly led all scorers with 33 points for the Chippewas, who suffered their first loss of more than 30 points since a 93-58 decision to Western Kentucky on Nov. 17, 2019.