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Huskies struggling to find right pieces, fall to Toledo

DeKALB — The Huskies looked out of sorts throughout the second half of a 63-51 home loss to Toledo Saturday.

NIU (4-10, 0-3 Mid-American Conference) was outscored 17-7 in the third quarter by the Rockets (7-7, 2-1).

"I think we don’t have a lot of cohesiveness as a group," Courtney Woods said. "We don’t really know where each other want the ball. We don’t do a good job of creating for each other. I think it gets to the end of the shot clock and someone just shoots it. In the Miami game we took a lot of steps forward and we took a couple back tonight. I think once we get it together we'll be fine."

With the Huskies needing a spark early in the second half trailing by eight, A'Jah Davis scored the Huskies' first two buckets of the half to pull NIU within four, 36-32. Davis scored seven points and grabbed four rebounds.

“I just think that our team in the third quarter, specifically when I started to score there, was doing a better job of getting the ball to me and when I wasn’t open, I was trying to kick it out to the shooters," Davis said. "We have to do a better job of that and I have to stop shying away from contact.”

The Rockets answered back to Davis' makes and grew their lead to 11 points, 46-35, when Arianne Whitaker dropped in an easy layup with just over two minutes left in the third quarter and stretched the lead to 13 after three, 48-35. Toledo capped a 13-0 run when they reached a 55-35 lead early in the fourth.

“Our inefficiency on the offensive end has kind of forced us to be a little more deliberate on the offensive end," NIU coach Lisa Carlsen said.

Ally May scored twice in the paint in the second quarter and Grace Hunter knocked down two first-half 3-pointers, but Toledo held the Huskies at bay, but May went down in the second quarter and did not return. Carlsen said May — who was on crutches and in a walking boot in the second half — would be evaluated later.

"We didn't handle losing Ally in the first half very well in the second half," Carlsen said.

The Huskies cut their deficit to three twice late in the second quarter with buckets from Abby Woollacott and Mikayla Brandon, and headed to the break trailing 31-28.

“We didn’t do a great job of playing as a unit and really setting each other up, getting the ball where we needed to get the ball whether we were running sets or just in our motion," Carlsen said. "I think that’s why it looked the way it did, both the combination of their defensive intensity and us not (paying) attention to detail on the offensive end.”

Woods, after scoring six points in the first quarter, was held to just nine points on 3 of 8 shooting.

“Our issue is internal," Woods said. "I don’t think other teams are doing anything crazy to stop us. I think we really have to figure it out ourselves, especially the first five.”

By the numbers: Nakiah Black led Toledo with 16 points. Toledo's largest lead came early in the fourth quarter when the Rockets led 55-35. Neither team scored on the fast break in the first half. The Huskies shot just 2 of 11 in the third quarter with six turnovers. Toledo shot 6 of 25 on 3-pointers in the loss. NIU turned the ball over 17 times. Grace Hunter hit three 3-pointers and scored 11 points for the Huskies.

Beyond the stats: Woods was presented with a commemorative ball before the game for breaking the program 3-point field goal record recently in a Dec. 19 Huskies win over Eastern Illinois.

They said it: “I think we have the pieces to be successful," Carlsen said. "It’s up to me and it’s up to my staff to figure out how to really put those pieces in place in order to have success."

Up next: NIU hosts Kent State Wednesday. The Rockets welcome Akron to Toledo Wednesday.

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