DeKALB – Northern Illinois head coach Kathi Bennett wants to see balance with her team.
Saturday, Bennett got just what she wanted, as the Huskies had five players in double figures in a 74-51 win over Ohio in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.
Danny Pulliam led NIU (5-6, 1-0 MAC) with 17 points, while Jazmine Harris added 15. Amanda Corral finished with 12 and Alicia Johnson and Ally Lehman both had 11. Lehman, a true freshman, was the only Huskie with a double-double, chipping in 10 rebounds.
It's the first time NIU has had five players in double figures since a double-overtime win over Western Illinois in November of 2011.
"I think our biggest thing was just trying to work together. Coach has talked to us, it's easier for us to score if we get it inside-out, so we've been getting a lot more people touches, better looks at the basket," Pulliam said. "We're learning how to play with each other, and just off each other's weaknesses and strengths."
Corral came into the contest as the eighth-leading scorer in the MAC at 13.7 points per game. She had just four first-half points before getting things going after halftime, and the Huskies were able to get other players involved as the Bobcats (5-7, 0-1 MAC) tried to take Corral away.
"Teams really deny her the ball and make her work, and that's because she's one of our better players. I think she did a better job of letting the game come to her and then really attacked in the second half," Bennett said. "And I'm really proud of her, she pullled up, and really had some good pull-ups. And that's her game, she can get off the ground and do that very well."
Bennett also complimented Corral's defense, as the junior held Ohio's leading scorer, Kiyanna Black, to five points. Black came in averaging 12 points per game.
"A.C. flat out shut her down," Bennett said. "Whoever she guards, she shuts down. And that's the role that she plays there, she is by far our best defender and does a great job."
The win is NIU's first conference-opening victory since winning at Central Michigan in January of 2009. The Huskies, who won just two MAC games a season ago, are off to a much-needed fast start in the MAC. NIU continues conference play Thursday at Toledo.
"It's really good, a big confidence-booster going into Toledo next," Pulliam said. "It's really good to get a win here at home and go to Toledo and try to keep it up. It's a big confidence-booster."