DeKALB – The Northern Illinois University women’s basketball team went more than 40 minutes without a lead against Ball State on Wednesday but found themselves up six in overtime.
But Sydney Freeman found her 3-point stroke for the Cardinals, Anna Clephane had a putback in the closing seconds, and the Huskies suffered their sixth straight loss, 83-82.
“As a fan, it’s a great basketball game to watch,” NIU coach Lisa Carlsen said. “But it’s a tough one for us to swallow. We fought and fought and fought to get back to even at the end of regulation and got off to a good start in overtime. Then we had a couple possessions late in the game we don’t do what we need to do and Ball State does, and unfortunately, they come away with the win.”
The Huskies (3-7 overall, 0-2 Mid-American Conference) built their biggest lead of the game when Erin Meinert hit a long jumper to put NIU up 80-74. Chelby Koker hit a layup with 41 seconds left to push the lead to 82-78, but Freeman hit her second 3-pointer of overtime and her fifth of the game to cut the lead to one.
Koker couldn’t connect on a layup down on the other end and Marie Kiefer was fouled with 4 seconds remaining. She missed both free throws, but the Huskies couldn’t get the rebound. Clephane did, scored her team-best 22nd point on the putback and put the Cardinals up, 83-82, with 1.5 seconds left.
Koker couldn’t get a shot for the Huskies as time expired to preserve the Ball State win.
“There was a lot of defensive breakdowns,” said Huskie guard Janae Poisson, who scored 17 for the Huskies, second only to Koker’s 28. “I think that’s just lapses in mental consistency, staying locked in until the very end. I think that’s what Ball State did and we didn’t. It’s tough, but I know we’ll be better next time.”
NIU trailed by as many as 13 in the game and started the fourth down, 60-51. NIU’s Errin Hodges made it 72-71 with a layup with 1:23 left. After a stop on the other end, A’Jah Davis connected on a layup to give the Huskies their first lead, then connected on the free throw to make it 74-72.
Jazmyn Turner tied the game with 16 seconds left, and the Huskies missed a pair of chances as time expired.
“We did some good things, hit some shots,” Carlsen said. “But I think there were some breakdowns later in the second half of that overtime that got us in trouble.”
Ball State (8-4, 1-1) started the game draining 3s early and often, going 5 of 11 from long range and leading by as much as 25-12 in the first quarter. The Huskies got it back to three points in the second quarter, but the entirety of the third quarter Ball State lead was between seven and 11 points.
Every time NIU would get it to a single bucket in the fourth, Ball State would push the lead back to five or six. At least until Davis’ three-point play with 34 seconds left.
Ball State led for 39:14, while the Huskies led for a total of 4:38.
“We talked a little at halftime, eight points is nothing, just keep our energy up,” Koker said. “Just play our game. It didn’t affect us too much going down. ... We just kept fighting, weathered the storm of their runs and get back into the game.”
Freeman finished with 20 points for the Cardinals, and Kiefer had a team-best seven rebounds. Davis finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Huskies, and Hodges scored 12 to go with eight rebounds.
The Huskies continue MAC play Saturday with a trip to Ohio for a noon tipoff.