BG’s defense clamps down on N. Illinois

1/27/2014
BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Bowling Green’s Jillian Halfhill drives to the basket to take a shot while being defended by Northern Illinois’ Danny Pulliam.
Bowling Green’s Jillian Halfhill drives to the basket to take a shot while being defended by Northern Illinois’ Danny Pulliam.

BOWLING GREEN — Bowling Green State University women’s basketball coach Jennifer Roos set a simple goal for her team’s Sunday matchup against Northern Illinois.

“I thought if we could get to 60 [points], I thought we could win,” she said. “I knew we weren’t going to get our average [of 70.5 points per game].”

The Falcons fell just a bit short of that goal, but their defense more than made the difference in a 57-44 victory at the Stroh Center.

PHOTO GALLERY: BG women top NIU 57-44

In the battle of the two top statistical defenses in the Mid-American Conference, BG held the Huskies to their lowest point total since their opener — and nearly 20 points below their season average.

Jillian Halfhill scored 14 points to lead the Falcons (16-3, 6-1 MAC), while Erica Donovan finished with 13 and Miriam Justinger 11.

Natecia Augusta led Northern Illinois (7-10, 3-4 MAC) with 12 while Amanda Corral had 11.

Bowling Green, which never trailed in the game, broke an 8-all tie with a 10-2 run over a four-minute span midway through the first half. The Falcons eventually extended the advantage to 17 points before taking a 32-17 halftime lead.

“I thought the game was won in the first half,” Roos said. “We extended our lead, and that was the key.”

Halfhill played a big role in that offensive surge, making both of her 3-point attempts and 4-of-5 shots overall to score 11 points in the half.

“Every player, when you are ‘feeling it,’ asks for the ball more — and when you make it, the coach gives you the green light more,” she said. “In the first half especially I started feeling it, and [Roos] started calling plays for me.

“Then everyone started to feel it. I think making shots is contagious, so when one person does it, everyone starts doing it.”

BGSU's Miriam Justinger takes a jump shot while being defended by Northern Illinois'  Jenna Thorp on Sunday evening.
BGSU's Miriam Justinger takes a jump shot while being defended by Northern Illinois' Jenna Thorp on Sunday evening.

The Falcons led by as many as 20 points just six minutes into the second half. The Huskies used a 15-4 run to cut their deficit to 47-38 with 6:58 on the clock.

“We started giving them second-chance points because we weren’t rebounding as well as we should,” Halfhill said. “Once we started to rebound and not give them second-half opportunities, we started to get our lead back.”

It didn’t help that BG committed 11 turnovers in the second half and 18 in the game.

“In the second half we were making silly passes,” Halfhill said. “I made a couple silly passes when people weren’t looking.

“That can be contagious too. … So in the huddle we said, ‘Stop pushing the ball so much. We have the lead, so we need to calm down.’ And that’s what we fixed.”

Halfhill’s layup with 5:45 left stopped NIU’s run, and the Falcons made eight of their last 10 free throws to seal the win.

In the contest that featured the MAC’s top two scoring defenses in BG (57.6 points allowed per game) and Northern Illinois (63.8), one key was the Falcons’ ability to make 3-pointers.

Bowling Green connected on 7-of-18 (38.9 percent) against an NIU team that allows opponents to shoot just 27.5 percent from behind the arc.

The other key was limiting Huskies guards Corral, who ranks eighth in the MAC at 14.9 points per game, and Danny Pulliam, who averages 10.1 points per contest but had only two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

“We felt that if we could limit them and not allow them to have career days, that would be a key,” Roos said.

NOTES: Before the game, Alexis Rogers was honored for scoring the 1,000th point of her BG career in a win over Eastern Michigan Thursday. … BG’s Kennedy Kirkpatrick was not in uniform as she attempts to come back from a hip injury.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481, or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.