Georgia Southern Races edge past NIU in WBI opener 69-58
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against North Dakota
03/18/2023 | 4 p.m.
March 18 (Sat) / 4 p.m.
against North Dakota
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Northern Illinois University women’s basketball team was thwarted by the Georgia Southern Eagles defense in Friday night’s first round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational, scoring just 58 points in a 69-58 loss. at the Clive M. Beck Center.
A’Jah Davis (DeKalb, Ill./Montverde Academy [Fla.]) led the Huskies with 12 points and eight rebounds. Chelby Koker (Racine, Wis./Shoreland Lutheran) had 10 points and seven rebounds, one shy of his season high. Tara Stauffacher (Columbus, Wis./Wisconsin) had 10 points off the bench.
Georgia Southern (21-8) took a 9-2 lead in the first 2:44 behind five points from Eden Johnson. NIU came back into the game at the free throw line as Koker and Laura Nickel (Marshall, Wis./Marshall) made four straight free kicks to make it 9-6 with 6:27 left in the first. NIU came close to two at 5:05 when a Grace Hunter (Monroeville, Ind./Bellmont) made it 11-9. The Eagles responded with a 7-2 run sparked by a three-point play from Terren Ward to take an 18-11 lead with 3:09 left in the first. Koker and Davis combined to score six of the next eight points in the game to put NIU inside the three, 20-17, with 1:27 to go. Le’Andrea Gillis doubled the lead with a three to give Georgia Southern a 23-17 advantage.
Gillis’ three sparked a 16-2 run that was capped at 5:45 of the second quarter on a Ward layup as Georgia Southern took a 36-19 lead. Stauffacher made a three with 5:20 left in the quarter, but it was NIU’s only field goal in the second. NIU was a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line in the second quarter, but only 1-for-13 from the field as the Eagles took a 40-26 halftime lead.
NIU (16-15) trailed by 17 early in the third before Stauffacher’s second three sparked a 9-2 Huskies run. Nickel capped the scoring push with a jumper that put the Huskies under 10, 47-37, with 5:53 left in the quarter. Janae Poisson (Matteson, Ill./Marian Catholic) closed the gap to eight when her three at 2:39 made it 50-42. Georgia Southern went up 13 goals but baskets from Davis and Sidney McCrea (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Prairie) made it 55-46.
The two teams traded baskets early in the fourth, but it was Georgia Southern who were able to extend their lead. Ward scored the first five points in a 10-2 Eagles run that gave Georgia Southern a 15, 67-52 lead with 5:36 to go. NIU went more than five minutes scoreless on the field before a Stauffacher layup at 4:01 put the Huskies within 13. The Huskies were only 11 closer the rest of the way.
“We had to shake things up in the second half,” head coach Lisa Carlsen said after the game. “I was proud of our effort in the second half. We did a lot of good things in terms of the effort we had on the floor and we had some good looks. If we knocked down a few, we would have been in a different situation.”
NIU shot 32.2 percent from the field and was held 5-for-26 from the three-point line. The Huskies made 15 of 16 free throws. NIU held Georgia Southern 11 points under their scoring average for the season despite the Eagles shooting 49% from the field. Ward led all players with 21 points and nine rebounds. Simone James added 11 points.
The Huskies will face North Dakota in the consolation bracket on Saturday, March 18. Tipping is at 4:00 p.m. CT.