DeKALB — Northern Illinois’ women’s basketball team had a buzzer-beater as the game clock hit zero Wednesday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, it wasn’t quite enough, as Danny Pulliam’s three-pointer awith no time remaining got NIU to within one point of South Dakota State, who barely held off a Huskies comeback for a 59-58 win.
NIU (2-2) led, 50-49, with 4:56 left in the game, before the Jackrabbits (3-2), who were picked to win the Summit League in the conference’s preseason poll, pulled away in the final two minutes.
“I thought we played really well, and very proud of my team, how they battled, came back and the energy that it took,” NIU coach Kathi Bennett said. “This is a very good team, and it hurts when you come that close to beating a really good team.”
Despite the loss, Bennett raved about how she had players step up their games in the loss. The Huskies needed that to happen as point guard Amanda Corral, the Huskies’ second-leading scorer entering the contest (11 points per game), left late in the first half with an injury to her left leg. She was able to walk off the court on her own, but was wearing a brace on the bench in the second half.
NIU needed some additional offense with its starting point guard out. Luckily for the Huskies, players like sophomore forward Jada Buggs and senior forward Satavia Taylor helped make up for the loss of Corral.
In just her third game as a Huskie, Buggs was able to notch a career-high 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting, while Taylor added 10. Bennett also praised her team’s depth, and the play of contributors off the bench, such as Pulliam (eight points), Natecia Augusta (six points) and Ashley Sneed (five points).
“I was really feeling it,” Buggs said. “I just feel like my teammates really put me in a position to score, so I just capitalized.”
Buggs sat out last year after transferring from Wisconsin, where Bennett recruited her. NIU’s third-year coach said Buggs can play at another level, and that she’s starting to get there.
“It was really neat to see her have fun out there,” Bennett said. “I always said she could wheel and deal. She had a great game and there’s more to come.”
With Corral out for the second half, the Huskies tried to get Buggs the ball in the high post and give her a chance to make plays. Bennett said she wanted to keep running the ball through Buggs in the second half until the Jackrabbits finally had an answer for her.
Buggs scored 11 of her 16 points after halftime.
“It was hard losing [Corral],” Buggs said. “I just felt like then, not only me but the whole team had to step it up another notch.”
The Huskies dropped to .500 after going 2-1 in the Preseason WNIT to start the season. NIU will play at Bradley Nov. 28, before hosting Loyola Nov. 30 at the Convocation Center.