Shafford’s double-double, late three leads USI to 3-0 start


EVANSVILLE, Ind. – In a close contest from the opening tip to the final horn, University of Southern Indiana Women’s Basketball claimed a hard-fought 66-60 victory against Northern Illinois University Thursday night at Screaming Eagles Arena.

With Thursday’s win, Southern Indiana moved to 3-0 to begin the season, earning the first 3-0 start for the program since the 2020-21 season. USI also remains as the only unbeaten team in the Ohio Valley Conference to begin the 2023-24 campaign.
The defenses made it difficult for both teams to find a flow on the offensive end at the beginning. USI junior guard Vanessa Shafford (Linton, Indiana) scored a couple of buckets early to give the Eagles a 6-3 advantage near the midway point of the first period. Neither team let the other get ahead by more than one possession through the first 10 minutes of action, as USI took a 12-11 lead into the second.
Southern Indiana created a little momentum in the second quarter, starting with a three-point play by Shafford. Following a three-pointer by redshirt senior guard Addy Blackwell (Bloomington, Indiana) to give USI a six-point lead, 20-14, at the 7:03 mark, USI went to its post players. Freshman forward Chloe Gannon (Manchester, Tennessee) found some inside looks, and senior forward Madi Webb (Bedford, Indiana) heated up for the Screaming Eagles in the second quarter. Webb had 10 points before the intermission, but Northern Illinois drilled a few triples to bring it back to a one-possession game at halftime, 28-25, in favor of USI.
The Eagles came out of halftime with a nice start, as a Shafford layup and a trey by Blackwell put USI ahead, 33-25, two minutes into the third quarter. Northern Illinois responded to tie the game at 37 after a pair of threes and a couple of layups. With two minutes remaining in the third, the Huskies took the lead, but Shafford answered with a three-pointer to push USI right back in front, 45-44. Blackwell connected on another three inside the last minute of the third to give USI a four-point advantage going into the fourth period.
After a slow start to the fourth quarter, Blackwell cashed in another three and put Southern Indiana up by eight, 52-44. Once again, Northern Illinois used the three-ball to come back and tie the game at 52, but freshman guard Triniti Ralston (Louisville, Kentucky) knocked down a deep jump shot, giving USI the two-point lead. The game continued to go back and forth down the stretch, evening up at 60 with under two minutes to play. With the frantic pace late, Southern Indiana jumped ahead for good on a clutch three-pointer by Shafford with 20 seconds remaining and iced the game at the foul line.
For the game, USI shot 42 percent (26-61) overall, hit seven threes at a 35 percent clip, and went 7-9 at the line. USI won the rebounding battle, 39-37. Shafford led all scorers with 21 points and collected 14 rebounds toward her sixth career double-double. Blackwell posted 14 points, while Webb finished with 10 points.
Northern Illinois, who dropped to 0-3 to begin the season, had three players in double figures. The Huskies shot 39 percent from the field (24-62) and 38 percent (9-24) from three.
The Screaming Eagles hit the road for the first time this season on Monday when USI takes on the University of Missouri at 7 p.m. in Columbia, Missouri. Monday’s game can be seen on SEC Network Plus through ESPN.