Koker score can’t carry NIU past Panthers

Huskies leave Macomb winless in two close contests

Khavon Thomas | North Star

Junior guard Chelby Koker possesses the ball during an exhibition Oct. 29 against Benedictine University at the Convocation Center. Koker scored

DeKALB — The women’s basketball team suffered a second straight Compass Challenge loss, trailing the Eastern University of Illinois Panthers 87-81 on Saturday in Macomb.

Junior guard Chelby Koker led the way for the Huskies, recording 29 points, 11 assists and six steals. Senior guard Janae Poisson scored 17 points and freshman hitter Laura Nickel added 12 points.

Women’s basketball head coach Lisa Carlsen praised Koker’s performance on Saturday night.

“Chelby was really good today, especially in the second half” carlsen said. “She let the game come to her and did a good job of penetrating and passing the ball to open shooters. We’ve always said we need the ball in Chelby’s hands and trust her to make the right decisions, and she did.

The Panthers had a huge ball movement in the first quarter, which created good opportunities around the basket. EIU shot 61 percent from the field and scored 16 points in the paint but didn’t deter the Huskies’ offensive attack.

Koker scored six points in the first quarter to keep the Huskies competitive. Seven points from senior Panthers forward Abby Wahl and six points from junior guard Lariah Washington led the Panthers to a 25-18 first quarter advantage.

Koker began to get into a rhythm in the second quarter, scoring six points as EIU continued to dominate the paint. The Huskies entered halftime down 46-32.

NIU started the second half with a rally attempt from behind against the Panthers after trailing by 14 at halftime. The Huskies had 17 points in the third quarter, including 15 points coming from three-pointers. Koker scored 8 points in the third to make a comeback against the Panthers.

Poisson and Koker began to surge in the fourth quarter, with the two guards combining for 20 points. Poisson hit three 3-point shots, including one that made it 75-69 with 2:51 left. Koker recorded two free throws with 2:11 remaining to make it a three-point game. After NIU finally made it a one-possession play, the Panthers responded by continuing to score in the paint.

The Huskies’ efforts ultimately failed as they lost 87-81 despite a productive second-half performance that saw them score 49 points.

Four Panthers starters scored in double figures in the win. Senior guard Kira Arthofer led EIU with 20 points on Saturday.

The Huskies stay on the road as they play at 2 p.m. Dec. 12 in Des Moines, Iowa, taking on the Drake University Bulldogs. The game will be available to watch on ESPN+.