The Bowling Green State University women's basketball team used stingy defense and a late first-half run to build a double-digit lead at the half, and the Falcons held off a late Northern Illinois University surge en route to a 57-44 win Sunday afternoon (Jan. 26). The Mid-American Conference game was held at the Stroh Center.
With the victory, the Falcons improve to 16-3 on the season, and BGSU is now 6-1 in the MAC. BG is two games ahead of Akron and Buffalo (both 4-3 in the MAC) in the league's East Division standings.
The Huskies drop to 7-10 and 3-4, respectively.
Senior Jillian Halfhill scored a game-high 14 points, while redshirt sophomore Erica Donovan added 13. Sophomore Miriam Justinger rounded out BG's double-figure scorers with 11 points in the win.
NIU got 12 points from Natecia Augusta and 11 from Amanda Corral.
Halfhill scored 11 of her 14 points in the first half. The point guard had eight of the Falcons' first 11 points of the game, capped by a three-point field goal that gave the Brown and Orange the lead for good with just over eight minutes gone.
The Falcons shook off a slow shooting start, heating up as the first half rolled along. After making two of three shots, all from long distance, to begin the game, the Brown and Orange then missed seven-straight shot attempts. But, beginning with that Halfhill trey, the Falcons proceeded to make five consecutive shots, and BG hit 9-of-11 attempts before a last-second shot was off the mark.
BG wound up shooting an even 50 percent in that first half, going 12-of-24 from the field and taking a 32-17 lead into the intermission.
In the second half, the Falcons hit three triples within the first three and a half minutes, opening up a 20-point lead. The Huskies fought back, cutting BG's advantage to nine points with just under seven minutes to go, but Northern would draw no closer. The home side extended the lead back out to 17 points before winning by 13.
Senior Jill Stein scored nine points, while classmate Alexis Rogers had six points and a game-high 12 rebounds. The Falcons held a 39-33 advantage on the glass.
After making those 12 field goals in the first half, the Falcons hit just seven shots in the second half. Meanwhile, NIU made 12 second-half buckets after hitting seven in the opening period.
While both teams hit 19 total shots in the game, however, it took the Huskies 21 more attempts than the Falcons to get there. NIU went just 19-of-63 on the afternoon, for a 30.2% success rate. BGSU shot 45.2% from the floor (19-of-42) for the game.
The Falcons went 7-of-17 (41.2%) from three-point land, with Donovan hitting three long-range tries and Halfhill two. Northern made just one trey in nine tries.
BG took an early 6-0 lead, as Halfhill knocked down a triple try from out top, then fed Donovan for a left-side three-ball. A jumper by Jenna Thorp got the Huskies on the scoreboard with exactly three minutes gone, and after a two-minute scoring drought, another Thorp bucket was followed by Ashley Sneed's layup that tied the score.
Halfhill hit a long two-pointer, but Thorp answered with a layup at the 13:01 mark. But, junior Deborah Hoekstra drove toward the basket, then turned and kicked the ball to Halfhill, who came off of a screen to drill the trey that gave the Brown and Orange an 11-8 lead. The Falcons would not trail again.
Halfhill's triple began a 16-3 run for the home team. Stein made back-to-back shots, converting a tough drive down the middle of the paint, then banking home another layup midway through the period after spinning around her would-be defender. The Falcons had a 15-8 lead.
Alexis Lindstrom stopped BG's 7-0 run with a jumper, but junior Jasmine Matthews split a pair of free throws, and Donovan took an inbounds pass from freshman Rachel Konieczki and hit a driving layup for an 18-100 advantage.
After Corral made the second of two free-throw tries, the Falcons scored the next six points. Hoekstra drove the left baseline and hit a layup, and Rogers hit a jump-stop layup after a Justinger pass. Then, Stein found Donovan with a bounce pass, and Donovan's layup gave the home team a 24-11 lead with 4:36 left in the half.
Augusta converted a jumper for the visitors, but Halfhill answered with a driving 'and-one' layup. The free throw gave the Falcons a 27-13 lead, and when Justinger dribbled around the arc, rose and drained a three-pointer over a Huskie defender, that advantage was 30-13.
Augusta scored four points in the final 72 seconds of the half, sandwiched around a pair of Justinger charity tosses, and the Falcons' lead was 32-17 at the break.
After going 4-of-8 from three-point land in the first half, the Falcons misfired on the first long-range try of the second period, then drilled three in a row over the span of just over two minutes.
Corral began the second-half scoring with a long two-point jumper, but Donovan took a pass from Stein and hit a right-wing three for a 35-19 lead. After another Corral layup, Donovan got open in front of BG's bench, took a pass from Halfhill and drained another trey. Then, the Falcons forced a miss, and Justinger found Stein at the top of the arc, resulting in another three-pointer and a 41-21 lead.
The Huskies battled back, though, getting to within 13 points with 12:13 left. BGSU turned the ball over on three-straight possessions, and Northern answered each turnover with a basket. The last was a three-pointer by Ally Lehman -- NIU's only trey of the game -- and BG's lead was 43-30.
Justinger snapped BG's two-minute scoring drought with a jumper in the paint, but the visitors scored the next four points, with Lehman's jumper cutting the Falcons' lead to 45-34 with just under nine minutes to go, and the Falcons took a timeout.
Out of that timeout, Stein scored in the lane, but hoops by Augusta and Alicia Johnson made it a single-digit game, 47-38, with 6:58 left. The Huskies got the ball right back after an offensive foul on the Falcons, but NIU could not convert, and Halfhill restored BG's double-figure advantage with one of her patented right-side runners off glass.
That bucket, which came with 5:25 remaining, began an 8-0 BGSU run, although neither team would score again for over three minutes. The teams exchanged missed shots until Rogers was fouled with the shot clock winding down and the game clock at 2:37. The senior hit both shots, for the first two of six-straight BG free throws in under a minute's time.
Johnson missed a jumper, and Justinger was fouled and made both tosses with 1:58 to go. Then, after Thorp could not get a shot to drop, Rogers grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Johnson. The senior hit two more shots from the stripe, and the BG lead was 55-38 with 1:45 to go. Corral scored four-straight points to cut the Huskies' deficit to 13 points, but Northern could draw no closer.
The Falcons now take to the road for the next two games, beginning with a Thursday (Jan. 30) contest at Ohio University.