DeKALB – It was just halftime, but the Northern Illinois women’s basketball team already had made progress.
The Huskies had exceeded the point total from their previous game and shut down the Ohio offense. Even though the Bobcats ratcheted up their defensive intensity in the second half, NIU had a comfortable lead that provided a large margin for error in a 68-61 win Wednesday night at the Convocation Center.
After a season-low offensive output in a 57-39 loss to Akron on Saturday, NIU coach Carol Owens said the Huskies' focus was on improved defense so their offensive quickly could get into its flow.
“We got some transition points this game,” Owens said. “Last game I think we had a total of four. Teams will try to take that away from us so we’ve got to be able to get some defensive stops.”
Mauvolyene Adams led the Huskies with 20 points and had a game-high 10 rebounds and Marke Freeman added 19 points. Ohio’s Carolyn Barnett led all scorers with 29 points.
With the Huskies’ four-player bench and the Bobcats' offensive struggles, substitutes entered the game in waves. The result was a choppy first half on offense for Ohio, which racked up 18 turnovers and shot 27 percent from the field.
Conversely, the Huskies (9-14, 308) dug in on defense and forced the Bobcats (6-18, 2-9) to shoot five first-half air balls. The short bench didn’t deter the Huskies from running the floor as they held a 14-4 edge in fast-break points and shot 50 percent in the first half. NIU led 39-18 at halftime.
“They forced us into a lot of turnovers and had a lot of transition baskets,” Ohio coach Semeka Randall said. “NIU played inspired from start to finish. We gave them a 21-point advantage and it’s hard to fight back from that big of a hole."
The Huskies held a 40-30 points-in-the-paint advantage behind Adams, who repeatedly turned to a running-lefty hook to get to the basket. The junior forward was active on the glass and physical inside, which caused Randall to say, “Adams was mean and nasty; but in a good way.”
Owens was looking for someone to be a solid interior force after the Akron loss and Adams said she wanted to make her presence in the paint felt on Wednesday.
“I wanted to be aggressive on the inside,” Adams said. “Coach wanted someone to get inside and bang around, so I guess [Randall] can thank Carol Owens for that.”