DeKALB – For one half of basketball, Northern Illinois was right with Akron.
As the team’s headed into the locker room, the Huskies trailed the Zips, who came into the game tied for first in the Mid-American Conference East Division, by just one point.
However, the second half was a different story. Instead of fighting off the Huskies in the final minutes, all Akron had to do was run out the clock and wait for time to expire in a 63-52 win.
After shooting almost 50 percent in the first half, NIU (5-11, 0-3 MAC) shot just 31 percent in the second. Akron (12-4, 3-0 MAC), started to pull away with a 7-0 run at the outset of the second half, a period in which NIU coach Kathi Bennett felt her team was hurt by its transition defense.
Bennett was also impressed by the Zips’ depth. Akron had four players in double figures, led by Hanna Luburgh, who finished with a game-high 18 points. The Zips finished the contest shooting 50 percent (9-for-18) on three-pointers.
“You can’t give up rhythm shots to great shooters. You’ve got to take them off rhythm. And we did not do that, and that’s something that they hurt us with,” Bennett said. “The transition defense and just, hands down, not throwing them off rhythm is what hurt us.”
Amanda Corral, NIU’s leading scorer entering the game, led the Huskies with 13 points. Natecia Augusta and Satavia Taylor each had nine.
Corral had 11 points in the first half and started 3 of 3 from three-point range, but Akron limited her scoring in the second.
“They ended up switching on screens and jumping out, trying to deny that pass,” Corral said. “When, if I got open they would just switch it right away.”
While NIU is still winless in conference play, with the Huskies’ next MAC game coming Saturday at Western Michigan, Bennett felt like if her team performed like it did against Akron in its previous two league games, her group would already have two victories. Against the first-place Zips, it just wasn’t enough.
“I hate to say it but it’s the truth. If we would have played like we did tonight against Ball State or Buffalo, it wouldn’t have been close,” she said. “It wouldn’t have been close.”
That being said, Bennett still feels like there’s positives with her team, and the potential to win in the MAC.
“You’ve got to bring it every game. Every game. We’ve got to understand what it takes to win,” she said. “You’ve got to finish stuff. We don’t finish a lot. You’ve got to finish games, finish shots. Finish defensive possessions with a hand up. We’ve got to learn how to finish.”