Northern Illinois knocked down six of six first-quarter three-pointers to build a 17-point lead and hold on for a 91-84 victory over visiting Georgia Southern in MAC/SBC Challenge action on Saturday in Dekalb.
The Huskies improved to 11-11 overall with the victory, while Georgia Southern falls to 13-12. The win for NIU also avenges a 69-58 loss to the Eagles last year in the opening round of the 13th Annual WBI Invitational postseason tournament.
The home team came out firing on all cylinders, draining back-to-back threes in an 8-0 run to open up the game. The Huskies led by 17, 33-16, before the Eagles got the last basket of the period on a Zaria Johnson layup.
Georgia Southern opened up the second quarter on a 12-3 run to cut the lead to six, 36-30, and the lead at halftime for NIU was seven, 51-44.
The Huskies returned to long range shooting to open up the third quarter, draining three more three-pointers to build the lead back to double digits. The Eagles would get back within single digits right at the end of the period after a Lydia Freeman layup, then a Zaria Johnson steal to make the score 69-60, but a three from NIU's Tara Stauffacher to open the fourth built the lead back to double digits for the Huskies.
A 14-3 run for the Eagles midway through the fourth quarter brought Georgia Southern to within six points, 84-78, but NIU was able to close out the game at the free throw line with seven free throws in the final minute and a half.
Terren Ward returned to the Eagle lineup and responded with a double-double of 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Zaria Johnson added 14 points and Ja'nya Love-Hill added 10. Jayden Marable led NIU on the day with 26 points.
Eagle of the Game
Johnson hit 6-of-11 shots from the floor en route to her 14 points, but also came up with a season-high five steals, three rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes of action,
Stat of the Game
NIU finished the game hitting 10-of-20 from long range for 50 percent, while Georgia Southern hit just 3-of-22 from long range for 13.6 percent.
Head Coach Anita Howard on the first quarter against the Huskies
"We dug a hole for ourselves. We talked about how the first quarter being one of their strongest quarters and we allowed them to shoot comfortably in their own gym. It's hard when you go down almost 20 in the first quarter, to have to fight back, it takes a lot of energy. The hole we dug was just a little too deep."
The Eagles visit Louisiana for a 7 p.m. ET Sun Belt contest in Lafayette on Wednesday, February 15.