The NIU Huskies had one of their most successful seasons in recent history in 2022-23, but couldn’t take that momentum into the Women’s Basketball Invitational, losing in the seventh-place game in Lexington, Kentucky on Sunday to finish eighth in the tournament.
The WBI functions a bit differently from most postseason tournaments; the eight-team field are all guaranteed at least three games, with every position fought for. Essentially, if you go 3-0, you win the title and if you go 0-3, you finish eighth. Everything in-between is decided in consolation brackets.
The Huskies were first matched up against the Georgia Southern Eagles of the Sun Belt Conference, losing by the final score of 69-58. The Eagles relied on two large offensive runs and staunch defense in the first two quarters to establish distance from the Huskies before coasting to a victory. It was a cold shooting night overall for NIU, who were 5-of-26 as a team on three-point attempts and shooting 32 percent from the field. Three Huskies finished in double-digits, led by A’jah Davis (12 points, eight rebounds.) Chelby Koker and Tina Stauffacher each had 10 points.
NIU’s next contest was in the loser’s bracket against North Dakota was decidedly different from the jump, as the Huskies found their shooting stroke and posted over 90 points. However, the Fighting Hawks scored over 100 points, taking home the 102-99 win in overtime. It was a back-and-forth affair in regulation, with NIU finding the advantage in the middle quarters, while North Dakota established dominance in the first and fourth quarters. It was a tight affair in the waning moments of overtime, with a chance to force double overtime in the hands of Jayden Marable, but the shot was ultimately missed. Six Huskies scored in double-digits, with Koker and Grace Hunter sharing the lead with 18 points apiece.
The final contest of the tourney for NIU was the seventh-place game against a fellow 0-2 team in the University of Illinois-Chicago. The UIC Flames lived up to their name at the start, scorching the nets at a 43 percent clip in the first quarter to establish a 21-12 lead. NIU would battle back, bringing the deficit to a 50-42 margin at the half. A brief run by the Huskies got the game within two possessions at the 7:23 mark in the third quarter, but a six-minute drought allowed UIC to get a killshot 19-4 run to end the frame. The fourth quarter was a formality, with UIC winning by a final score of 71-56. A’jah Davis once again NIU in her last game as a Huskie, getting a double-double (17 points, 17 rebounds) in the losing effort. No other Huskie had more than four rebounds, and only one other Huskie scored in double-digits.
Cal Baptist won the 2023 WBI title game over New Mexico State on Sunday evening, following NIU’s loss.
NIU will finish the 2022-23 campaign at 16-17 tally, with an 8-10 conference record.