Eagle women win one at home, 67-62 against NIU

Bianca Cage (10) drives the ball to the hoop. Cage scored 23 points in the team’s win over NIU on Thursday. The game marked her first career start.

Freshman Bianca Cage put together another impressive shooting performance, as the Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team defeated the Northern Illinois Huskies, 67-62, Thursday at the Convocation Center.

Cage, who was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time in her EMU career, scored 23, on a career-high 6-of-10 from three-point range, to go along with 3-of-3 from the foul line.

“[Northern Illinois] realized that Desyree [Thomas] was driving and they helped off of me, and she kicked the ball out and their defense kept helping over and over,” Cage said.

EMU head coach Tory Verdi had good things to say about Cage’s play Thursday night.

“When Bianca is shooting the ball very well, it gives everyone else confidence and then it becomes contagious,” Verdi said.

Junior Thomas put together her best performance of the season with eight points, a season-high 11 assists, five steals and zero turnovers.

“Assistant coach Kristin Haynie said to me, ‘Desyree, let’s have zero turnovers tonight,’ and I told her that I got it,” Thomas said. “Usually most point guards have one or two turnovers, so it was a big deal for me to get zero turnovers and help out my teammates as much as possible.”

Senior India Hairston chipped in with ten points on 5-of-11 shooting and four rebounds in 27 minutes.

Junior Sara Stone came up short of a double-double with nine points, on 4-of-8 shooting and one-of-two from the free-throw line and nine rebounds.

Junior Natachia Watkins put together another solid effort with eight points and nine rebounds.

For Northern Illinois (5-15, 0-7 Mid-American Conference) senior Satavia Taylor led the way with 23 points, on 8-of-18 shooting, to go along with 5-of-10 from three-point range and four blocks.

Sophomore Amanda Corral scored ten points, on 4-of-7 shooting, to go along with 2-of-5 from three-point range and four rebounds to round out the Huskies’ main scoring.

As a team, EMU turned the ball over 11 times, compared to Northern Illinois’ 18 turnovers.

The Eagles shot 26-of-62 (41.9 percent) from the field, while the Huskies went 23-of-50 (46 percent).

EMU (5-15, 3-4 MAC) scored the first four points of the game on layups by Stone and Thomas.

Six-foot-4-inch senior Chelsea Hite was inserted in the game to play alongside 6-foot-3-inch Hairston, as a way of taking advantage of the Huskies’ lack of size up front.

Hite made three consecutive baskets to keep the Eagles in the game at 17-13, with 11:00 left in the first half and gave the Huskies problems with how to manage both her and Hairston being on the floor at the same time.

Most of the first half was a back and forth affair, until EMU closed the first half on a 17-2 run, highlighted by Cage’s three-point make and two made free throws in the last 4:58, to go into the locker room up 35-26 on Northern Illinois.

At the start of the second half, the Eagles kept the momentum going with Cage’s hot shooting from long range.

The Eagles’ lead stretched to as many as 18 points, 51-33, with 15:07 left in regulation.

Northern Illinois responded with a 24-5 run, to get ahead 57-56, with 6:03 remaining in the game.

Watkins responded with a layup to put EMU back up by one, at 58-57, with 5:30 left in regulation.

Thomas, then drove to the basket and converted a layup to increase the lead to three.

EMU never looked back as Northern Illinois ran out of time to pull off a potential come-from-behind victory.

Game Notes:
The attendance for this game was 177.

EMU’s win moves their home record to 2-8 on the season.

Sophomore Amber Bogard missed her second straight game with an undisclosed arm injury.

EMU only dressed nine players for the game.

Looking Ahead:
The Eagles conclude their three-game home stand Sunday, Feb. 3, when they take on the Ball State Cardinals.

Ball State is 9-11 and 6-1 in the MAC. They defeated the Western Michigan Broncos, 73-50, on Thursday, Jan. 31.

Game time is scheduled for 2 p.m. and can be heard on WEMU 89.1 FM.

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