Late turnover dooms Huskies in MAC loss to Kent State

DeKALB – The NIU women’s basketball team turned the ball over 18 times Saturday in a 69-65 loss to Kent State, and none was more crucial than the last one.

Chelby Koker tried to get an inbound pass on the baseline to Paulina Castro with 10 seconds left and the Huskies down two.

But the pass went out of bounds, Kent State connected on its free throws down at the other end and the Golden Flashes (8-6 overall, 7-4 MAC) snapped the five-game winning streak of the Huskies (11-7, 9-4).

“Obviously getting the ball inbounds is the most critical piece,” NIU coach Lisa Carlsen said. “No matter how good the play is if you don’t get the ball inbound the play is not going to work. And that’s on me. Seeing that wasn’t going well with a timeout left, I needed to call a timeout there and see if we couldn’t draw something else up. Unfortunately, I didn’t and the ball goes out of bounds.”

NIU led by four, 63-59, with 3:56 left on a layup by Mikayla Brandon, but that lead was erased when Lindsey Thall drained a 3-pointer to give the Flashes a two-point lead with 2:20 left.

Brandon’s layup would be the last field goal of the game for NIU.

“We put ourselves at a deficit at a really bad time,” Carlsen said. “But you have to give Kent State credit. I thought they were really good defensively.”

The Flashes led most of the first half and led 31-28 at the break. But the Huskies surged to a five-point lead by the end of the third quarter behind shooting 59% from the floor. They finished the game at 41% from the floor, including 27% in the fourth quarter.

“I think we’re a third-quarter team,” NIU guard Janae Poisson said. “I think regardless of what happened in that first half we come out with that energy and the starting five does a really good job at that. And AD (A’Jah Davis) made some big buckets in the beginning, I think we were just feeding off of that.”

Davis finished with a game-high 19 points to go with seven rebounds. She scored six of the Huskies’ first eight points down low.

“I really thought she went to work,” Carlsen said. “Her teammates did a great job of getting her the ball. And I think the other thing is we were able to get some stops and get out and go a little bit. Errin (Hodges) had a couple takes to the hole, and I think we’re better when we do that.”

By the numbers: Koker was held under her season average of 21 points, scoring 16 on 6-of-18 shooting. She had nine rebounds, five assists and seven turnovers. Nila Blackford led the Flashes with 19 and nine rebounds, while Thall added 12 points and seven rebounds. Poisson added 10 for the Huskies.

Beyond the stats: Davis found herself facing the 6-2 Blackford and the 6-2 Thall down low. Often they would double team the 6-1 sophomore and DeKalb native.

They said it: “They’re giving me the ball from the start, and I just made an adjustment,” Davis said. “I realized how she was playing me. I just needed my quickness a little more to get around her.”

Up next: The teams meet at 1 p.m. Sunday for a rematch at the Convocation Center. Hodges, who scored nine on 4-of-5 shooting, left the game in the third quarter. Carlsen said her status was unknown.

Eddie Carifio

Has been the sports editor in DeKalb since 2014.