Women’s basketball hangs on against NIU, snapping five-game losing streak

Freshman guard Tiana Timpe takes a shot Dec. 11 in McGuirk Arena.

Up 11 going into halftime, Northern Illinois seemed destined to snap its four-game losing streak. 

Junior guard Molly Davis and Central Michigan, riding a five-game losing spell of their own, weren’t going down without a fight.

“It starts with our leader, Molly Davis,” said head coach Heather Oesterle. “She’s pushing the tempo, putting pressure on defense’s right from the start and she’s been locked in. In practices and games, she’s leading us.”

Davis piled on 20 points in the final two quarters, helping the Chippewas best Northern Illinois 72-68 in McGuirk Arena on Saturday. 

Central Michigan improves its record to 3-7 and 1-1 in Mid-American Conference play. The Huskies fall to 3-6 on the year and 0-1 in the MAC, with their losing streak growing to five games.

“I’m very proud of our team,” Oesterle said. “I don’t think that I tell them that enough, because we did hit some adversity early in the year and we’ve continued to get better. We’ve stuck with the process, our players are getting in the gym extra and it’s finally paying off. I think we’re finally back to playing Central Michigan basketball.”

With redshirt junior Anika Weekes missing a second-straight game, the Chippewas started with a smaller lineup than usual. 

“In this conference, you can get away with playing four guards at times,” Oesterle said. “I think it’s helped us open up the floor for (Davis) and (Smith) a little bit more because we have three kids around them that can shoot the three.”

The Huskies took advantage of the size difference early in the contest by focusing on feeding junior center A’jah Davis,11 points on the interior in the first quarter. However, freshman forward Tiana Timpe caught fire from deep and kept the Chippewas offense alive. 

When Central Michigan adjusted to stop the inside pass, Huskies’ leading scorer, junior guard Chelby Koker stepped up and attacked the basket to put NIU up 38-27 at halftime.

“I’ll tell you what I’m one coach that listens to my players, and when Molly Davis wants to guard number one so she can help in the post, I mean that was huge for us in the third quarter,” Oesterle said. “She was down there double-teaming, digging on her, it made it hard for (A’jah) Davis, and we were able to help off of one.”

The plan worked as the Chippewas immediately disrupted the Huskies’ rhythm with Davis helping inside. Davis, who ranks fourth in the Mid-American Conference in field goal percentage, went cold. CMU took advantage of the drought and strung together a 10-2 run that cut NIU’s lead to three. 

Entering the fourth with the home crowd rocking, the Huskies struggled and CMU kept pouring it on from three. Davis found her groove again and drew the Huskies within one point of CMU in the final seconds.

While NIU made it tight late, they were forced to foul to stop the clock. Davis went 3-for-4 from the charity stripe to secure the Chippewas’ first home win of the year. 

The Midland native led all scorers in the contest with 32 points while adding 10 assists for her second double-double of the season. Senior center Jahari Smith recorded her fourth double-double finishing with 11 points and 21 rebounds, good for fourth-best in program history in single-game boards. Timpe recorded 20 points to set a new career high.

Central Michigan will look to add another home win to its total on Wednesday, Jan. 7, at 7 p.m. when they welcome Western Michigan to McGuirk Arena.