DeKalb’s defense suffocates Kaneland

DeKALB – With 30 seconds left in the game and sophomore forward Alyssa Burgess at the line, DeKalb head coach Chris Davenport finally pulled off the full-court press.

It was a short respite, but one that was well-deserved. The Barbs held visiting Kaneland to 25 percent shooting Friday night on the way to a 41-25 win. Junior forward Madelyne Johnson, who led the way with 14 points along with seven rebounds, was proud of her team’s defensive effort.

“I thought we did well,” Johnson said. “We did a good job of rebounding out of the zone, which we emphasized a lot coming in. And when you play good defense, it helps out your offense.”

Right from the start, DeKalb (13-6, 5-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) put on its 2-2-1 press, which forced the Knights (9-11, 2-2 NI Big 12 East) into turnovers and tough shots. They were still able to stay in the game, thanks to five early points from senior center Kelly Wallner, who finished with a team-high eight.

As the first half wore on, the Barbs slowly pulled away. On one end, senior forward Alexis Hammond was snatching rebound after rebound, finishing with eight total on the night.

And on offense, sophomore point guard Brittney Patrick, who finished with six assists, was finding her teammates for four first-half 3-pointers, including two from junior guard Paige Wogen.

DeKalb took a 29-12 lead into halftime, but the Knights looked much better than a 17-point underdog coming out of the locker room. They handled the press with ease and didn’t allow the Barbs to get the easy buckets they found in the first half.

“[We had] a lot less turnovers,” Kaneland head coach Ernie Colombe said of what changed in the second half. “If you take care of the ball, you give yourself a chance.”

While they played much better after the break, the Knights had dug themselves too big of a hole. Hammond continued her strong interior play en route to six points on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting from the field, and Patrick controlled the tempo on the outside.

Overall, both teams were much quieter in the second half, and that was just fine for the Barbs. They were never threatened and cruised to a comfortable win in front of the home crowd. Davenport knows his team can play better than it did, but he was still pleased with the performance.

“We’re getting better,” Davenport said. “We’ve still got a lot of room for improvement, but all in all, I thought we did a good job.”