DeKALB, Ill. - The Central Michigan women's basketball team seems to play a different brand of basketball in the second halves versus Northern Illinois.
The Chippewas' (17-11, 11-4 MAC) defense tightened in the second half again, limiting the Huskies (7-21, 2-13 MAC) to just 21 second-half points en route to a 82-61 victory. The stymying defense allowed the Maroon and Gold turn a 40-36 halftime deficit into a 21-point victory as they outscored the Huskies in the final 20 minutes, 46-21.
CMU opened the second half on an 8-2 run that was capped on a steal and layup by Brandie Baker that put the senior in double digits scoring and put the Chippewas in front, 44-42. After a pair of threes by Alexis Lindstrom gave the Huskies the lead, 48-46, Baker hit a pair of free throws and then found senior Jessica Schroll on the break to put the Chippewas in front for good.
Junior Taylor Johnson then came off the bench and put on a shooting clinic as she scored all 11 of her points in a stretch of 5:27 that put CMU in ahead, 73-51. A trio of treys came from the junior's hand and her final jumper with 5:58 to play gave her as many points in the second half as NIU had to that point.
The Chippewas continued to build their lead and ultimately went up by as many as 25 when Baker hit a three from the left wing as the shot clock expired, 79-54.
CMU held the Huskies to just 26.7 percent (8-for-30) in the second half after NIU shot 51.7 percent (15-for-29) in the first half to claim the lead. Adversely, the Chippewas shot 60 percent (18-for-30) in the second half to run away with things.
Baker finished the contest with a season-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while also matching a season high with six assists. Junior Niki DiGuilio went 3-for-6 from deep to score 15 points and pulled down a season-high five rebounds, while sophomore Crystal Bradford had 14 points and a team-high nine boards. Schroll also finished in double figures with 12.
The Chippewas will close the regular season Wednesday night at Eastern Michigan at 7. A win versus the Eagles will secure the No. 3 seed at the FirstEnergy MAC Tournament in Cleveland, Ohio March 13-16.
Junior Taylor Johnson shot a combined 13-for-14 in CMU's two meetings versus Northern Illinois, going a perfect 4-for-4 in Sunday's contest to score 11 points.
Baker's 20-point performance was her first of the season and sixth of her career. Her performance moved her to 12th in program history as she now has 1,224 career points.
Baker also finished the afternoon with three steals, moving into seventh place in program history with 189 thefts.
CMU improved to 8-0 this season when scoring at least 80 points, while improving to 10-0 when allowing fewer than 60 points.
Sunday marked the 15th time this season that at least five players scored in double figures. CMU has posted a 12-3 record overall and is now 8-0 in MAC play when accomplishing the feat.
DiGuilio scored 11 of her 15 points in the first half, marking the ninth time this season and 37th time in her career that she has scored in double figures.
The Chippewas held NIU to just 19 second-half points in their first meeting Jan. 17.