DeKALB – In a matchup between two of the best teams in the Mid-American Conference, the Northern Illinois women's basketball team took a lead early in the second quarter.
Then things fell apart for the Huskies.
The Chippewas went on a lopsided run in the second quarter and never looked back in a 109-94 victory over the Huskies on Wednesday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
"I thought they really got their transition going, we had some breakdowns in transition and they got some easy things," Northern Illinois coach Lisa Carlsen said. "I think that affected us, as far as our aggressiveness ... and sharing the basketball on the offensive end. It was like we gave up something easy and we were frustrated with that and we maybe didn't get the best shot we could and then we gave up another easy one."
Northern Illinois senior Ally Lehman, who flirted with a triple-double, hit a jumper to put the Huskies (16-6 overall, 9-2 in MAC West) ahead, 27-25, with 9:27 left in the second quarter.
The Chippewas (17-6 overall, 9-2 in MAC West) responded by going on a 28-3 run – putting them up 53-30 – and their lead didn't dip into single-digits until the final two minutes of the game.
"We kind of let one bad play to lead to another," said Northern Illinois senior forward Cassidy Glenn, who scored 21 points on the night. "We came out in the second half and fought more, but I felt like if we came out in the first half like we did in the second half it would have been a different game."
The loss for Northern Illinois snaps its streak of winning 10 of their previous 11 games and puts the Huskies into a tie with Central Michigan for second place in the MAC, with Ball State (17-7 overall, 10-2 in MAC West) jumping into first with a win over Bowling Green on Wednesday. The Huskies topped the Cardinals, 101-96, on Jan. 28 in Muncie, Indiana.
Against the Chippewas on Wednesday, Lehman was the main offensive force for the Huskies, finishing with 31 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds – one rebound short of her third triple-double of the season.
The Huskies, who led for 35 seconds on the night, got 16 points from sophomore shooter Courtney Woods and sophomore Mikayla Voigt had 13.
Central Michigan sophomore post Reyna Frost had 24 points and 18 rebounds – six offensive – and sophomore guard Presley Hudson had 24 points and nine assists to lead five Chippewas in double figures.
The Chippewas led by as much as 20 in the second half and the Huskies cut it to 70-60 after a pair of free throws by Lehman with 3:39 left in the third quarter. However, Central Michigan answered with a 3-pointer by Aleah Swary seven seconds later.
"To be honest, I thought it was closer," Lehman said. "At one point, I thought we were single digits and then I looked up and we were down 14. Maybe better awareness and defensive stops were the big key and that's where we really struggled."
The Huskies finally got it into single digits twice – when a 3-pointer by Woods with 2:12 left in the game and a layup by Cassidy Glenn with 1:06 remaining – but got no closer than nine.
By the numbers: Central Michigan outrebounded the Huskies 58-30 on the night, including 21-9 on the offensive boards. However, that only translated into a 16-12 advantage for the Chippewas on second-chance points.
Beyond the stats: The Chippewas were picked by the coaches as the preseason favorite to win the MAC. They were coming off a 104-63 victory at Eastern Michigan, with the 41-point drubbing being the most lopsided victory during conference play of any team in the MAC.
They said it: "We're going to have to find a way to rebound the basketball better and not give a team like Central that many second-chance opportunities," Carlsen said. "It makes you play defense for consecutive possessions and that wears on you physically and mentally. You play good defense and you get the shot clock into single numbers and then you give up an offensive board and have to play another 30 seconds of defense or you're in a scramble situation and you're not where you need to be."
Up next: The Huskies play at Buffalo at 1 p.m. Saturday and the Chippewas host Western Michigan on Saturday.