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Sports

NIU drops Toledo

Northern Illinois’ Whitney Lowe (center) battles with three Toledo defenders for possession of the ball during the Huskies’ 73-70 victory over the Rockets at the Convocation Center on Wednesday. Chronicle photo HOLLY LUNDH
Northern Illinois’ Whitney Lowe (center) battles with three Toledo defenders for possession of the ball during the Huskies’ 73-70 victory over the Rockets at the Convocation Center on Wednesday. Chronicle photo HOLLY LUNDH

DeKALB - When the buzzer sounded a second time, it was for real. In a wacky final sequence, Jessie Wilcox blocked a three-pointer, the officials put seventh-tenths of a second back on the clock and the Northern Illinois women's basketball team hung on for a 73-70 victory over Toledo at the Convocation Center. Just four days after losing a winnable Mid-American Conference game at Central Michigan, the Huskies nearly let another game slip away on Wednesday, but pulled out their 17th win of the season to match their highest win total since 2001-02. After the Huskies, still battling for a first-round bye in the MAC tournament, took a 16-point lead four minutes into the second half, the Rockets battled back to within one point on four occassions, but never captured the lead. &#8220It was a great win tonight for our team, for our program,” second-year NIU coach Carol Owens said. &#8220It's a great accomplishment for this team, I'm very proud of them. I'm very proud of how hard they worked when Toledo came back and made their run. When they cut it down to one, we stayed determined and we fought hard. We got the stops we needed to toward the end.” The Huskies (17-9, 8-6) fired their way to a 43-33 halftime lead behind a blistering three-point attack (8-of-16), and burst out of the gates in the second half to take a 16-point lead (54-38) by the 16:19 mark. Stephanie Raymond drained a trio of three-pointers and drove for a layup to score 11 of her game-high 30 points in the first 3:41 of the second half. &#8220We wanted to run in transition and just put them away in the first five minutes,” Raymond said. However, the Huskie didn't put Toledo away, instead suffering through a 4:52 scoring drought in which the Rockets went on a 12-0 run. The Rockets hurt NIU inside, outscoring the Huskies 42-16 in the paint and shooting 55.8 percent from the field. But the Huskies did step up to halt the rally, getting a defensive stop on three of the four possessions after the Rockets had cut the lead to one. &#8220They put us on our heels a little bit coming at us, but we overcame it,” Raymond said. &#8220We came together as a team and said lets buckle down, we're not going to lose this game.” Once again, the Huskies' superior free throw shooting ability allowed them to hold off an opponent. The Huskies, second in the nation in free throw percentage (80.3), connected on 9-of-11 in the second half, including 4-of-4 by Raymond in the final 2:55. Nine of NIU's final 11 points came from the free throw line. &#8220They are a team that thrives on getting to the free throw line,” Toledo coach Mark Ehlen said. &#8220They are a team you don't want to foul. They certainly made us pay down the stretch.” The Huskies also used their above average three-point shooting to build their 10-point halftime advantage and to help hold off the Rockets in the second half. Northern Illinois sank 13-of-28 (46.4 percent) of its three-point attempts. In the first half, the Huskies hit threes on three consecutive possessions and in one stretch drained seven three-pointers in a five-minute span. Raymond led the way, connecting on 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. Kylie York (3-of-8), Whitney Lowe (2-of-4), Mary Basic (1-of-2), Tara Michels (1-of-2) and Wilcox (1-of-5) also contributed to the three-point barrage. &#8220That was a huge run for us,” York said of the seven threes in five minutes. &#8220We're a good three-point shooting team and to get started like that really helps our game. That opens up the inside a lot. We just came out on fire. Everybody was hitting their shots and finding the open player. Kevin Chlum can be reached at kchlum@daily-chronicle.com.

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