DeKALB – Northern Illinois women’s basketball coach Kathi Bennett wasn’t on the bench for Wednesday’s game against Eastern Illinois.
Bennett was suspended for a violation of athletic department policy, and she will be back on the bench for Saturday’s game at Illinois-Chicago.
With associate head coach Joe Conroy coaching the team Wednesday, the Huskies still utilized Bennett’s philosophy of playing hard-nosed defense.
The end result was a 48-38 NIU victory. The Huskies (4-5) held the Panthers (5-6) to their lowest point total of the season. The 38 points allowed was also the least amount of points NIU has given up on the year.
“The kids proved that they’re a team, and one unit, and they just stuck with coach’s plan,” Conroy said. “They did what she put into place all week and it showed for itself that they’re very resilient. That they’re just going to keep battling every day.”
Amanda Corral led NIU with 10 points and eight rebounds. She said she found out Bennett wouldn’t coach the night before the game. In the end, playing under Conroy wasn’t too much of a difference for the Huskies.
“I think we all knew we had to play hard regardless of who the coach was,” Corral said. “We respect coach Conroy enough to play hard. He wasn’t any different.”
The Panthers came into Wednesday’s contest averaging 65.1 points per game. Conroy said NIU was able to clamp down on EIU due to its fast-break defense.
“They had four fast-break points,” Conroy said. “And that was our goal, was to not allow them to get out in transition and run, and we really felt like we stuck with the game plan.”
To Conroy, one of the key’s for the team’s defensive success was the play from the bench. The Huskies had 10 people play at least 12 minutes in Wednesday’s victory, NIU’s first win since Nov. 30.
“I think what was really crucial tonight was our bench play. We didn’t lose anything defensively when our bench came in,” Conroy said. “... We really did feel like our bench was huge, because we played everybody pretty equally. When you look down the minutes for us tonight, people really stepped up big.”
The Huskies had 10 players score, and got the win despite Corral being the the only player in double figures. Satavia Taylor added nine points for the Huskies, while Natecia Augusta finished with eight and Alexis Lindstrom added six.
“I think again, that’s a credit to coach Bennett and the idea that we’re a team. I think tonight, everybody just decided that no matter what we’re going to stick together and we’re going to help each other out,” Conroy said. “No matter what, we’re going to overcome some things as a team, and so nobody was looking to shine.
“We’re just looking to prove that we have home-court pride here in the Convocation Center.”