Eagles defeat NIU in a defensive battle

Cha Sweeney (Fr. Toledo, OH) made this layup during the second half.

The Eastern Michigan University women’s basketball team won a defensive battle on Sunday, beating Northern Illinois University 54-45.

Cha Sweeney led the Eagles for the fourth straight game with 13 points on 5-of-11 from the field and 3-of-6 from the free-throw line. Olivia Fouty also chipped in with 13 points of her own plus ten rebounds to give her the double-double.

EMU improves to 16-11 on the season and 6-10 in the Mid-American Conference with two games to go in the season.

Natecia Augusta with 12 points on 6-of-10 from the field. Nobody else on the team had more than seven points.

NIU falls to 9-17 overall and 5-11 in the MAC.

EMU’s defense played well against Northern Illinois. NIU was held to 17-of-45 (37.8 percent) shooting from the field and just 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) from three. The Eagles’ defense also forced 20 turnovers on the night.

EMU head coach Tory Verdi talked about the defensive battle and how the game went.
“It was not pretty,” Verdi said. “But a win is a win.”

NIU’s leading scorer Amanda Corral came into the game on a hot streak, scoring 20 in the last three games. Corral finished with seven in the game and now averages 14.1 points per game on the season.

“We just wanted to squeeze our zone and take away all dribble penetration,” Verdi said. “That was the biggest key. We are going to live with threes made, but we didn’t want to give them any one-legged layups.”

EMU senior forward Natachia Watkins became the 18th player in EMU history to top 1000 points in their career with her eight points tonight.

“I am extremely proud of [Natachia]. With everything she’s been through, it’s a great accomplishment,” Verdi said.

Watkins spoke after the game about the team’s defensive focus coming in and what this game meant for the Eagles as a whole.

“Today’s game was a well needed win especially coming off a loss to Western,” Watkins said. “Our main focus this week was defense and mainly sagging off of their non-shooters, so that way it would be harder for them to get post entries.”

The Eagles started the game quickly; going up six points within the first three minutes.

NIU did come back to lead by one with 12:20 left in the first half and played close the rest of the half. EMU led at halftime 24-23.

EMU went on a 15-4 run to start the second half and never looked back.

NIU closed to within five points with 6:29 left in the game, but EMU responded again and got the lead up to 12 again before surrendering a three-pointer with nine seconds left to claim the nine-point victory.

EMU plays again on Wednesday, March 5 in Toledo, Ohio, against the University of Toledo. EMU lost to Toledo at the Convocation Center two weeks ago 80-73.

Verdi also talked about the MAC and how it is one of the best conferences in the country.

“Every win in the MAC is great,” Verdi said. “It is one of the toughest conferences in the country and to pull out a win today, it actually prepares us for the conference tournament and it was a huge win for us, we needed this one.”

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