DeKALB – The players for the Northern Illinois women's basketball team don't remember the last time the Huskies started conference winning their first three games.
It's because they weren't born yet.
Northern Illinois put together one of its most impressive victories under second-year coach Lisa Carlsen in an 88-80 win over Ohio on Saturday afternoon at the NIU Convocation Center to give the Huskies their first 3-0 start to conference in more than two decades.
"It's a big (win) but it's early," Carlsen said. "It's one of those things, a lot of people probably thought NIU wasn't supposed to get this one. I feel like it's the one you got that maybe you didn't count on, so that's a big win. Ohio is going to go beat a lot of teams and at the end of the year, they'll probably be where they want to be. For us to defend home court against a team like that, it's big."
The last time the Huskies (10-4 overall, 3-0 in Mid-American Conference West) started conference play with three wins came in the 1993-94 season as a member of the Mid-Continent Conference. They have never been 3-0 playing in the MAC.
"I don't think there's any doubt about that – this thing is going in the right direction," Carlsen said. "For us, that's what's most important. We've enjoyed a lot of firsts, especially this year. ... The only thing that matters to them is what happens in their career. ... For me, I'm 18 months in, so for me, a lot of those MAC stats aren't as meaningful, but they're great things to talk about. It's all been positive to the program."
Ohio (11-3 overall, 2-1 in MAC East) came into the season as a major contender to win its third straight regular season conference championship and won its opening two MAC games by an average of 19.5 points. The Bobcats hadn't allowed more than 70 points in a game this season, but the Huskies nearly matched that in three quarters – taking a 69-58 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Huskies led for the vast majority of the game and built their advantage to as much as 17 after a layup by post Kelly Smith made it 75-58 with 7:17 remaining in the game.
"We talked about it before the year that great teams defend home court," Carlsen said. "We look at what we were able to do tonight against a really good Ohio team and I think that's key for us going forward if we want to be where this group believes we can be."
Northern Illinois senior Cassidy Glenn scored a game-high 24 points on 9 for 22 shooting and had eight rebounds and was one of five players in double figures for the Huskies. Sophomore guard Courtney Woods had 18 points and went 11 for 14 from the free throw line, senior guard Ally Lehman had 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, sophomore guard Mikayla Voigt had 13 points and Smith had 10 points and six rebounds.
Freshman post Abby Woollacott had four points and 10 rebounds in 15 minutes.
"After winning this, we realize that we can play with anyone," Glenn said. "I know it's early in conference, but it shows that when we're prepared and focused and we work hard we can compete with anyone on any given night."
Ohio had six players in double-figures, led by Quiera Lampkins's 21 points on 9 for 22 shooting.
EXTRA PASSES: The Huskies opened up the game with a 9-0 lead. ... Ohio has won the turnover margin in all but one game this season and narrowly edged Northern Illinois, 18-17, on the afternoon. ... Northern Illinois is now 6-0 at home. ... The Huskies went 31 for 35 (88.6 percent) from the foul line.
UP NEXT: at Kent State, 6 p.m. Wednesday