Northern Illinois was within six points midway through the second half, but Akron was able to answer with an 11-2 run to take a 68-53 victory on Saturday afternoon at the NIU Convocation Center.
Freshman wing Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) led the Huskies with a career-high 13 points and five rebounds.
“Akron is a very good team, there is a reason why they are picked to finish first or second in the league,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “I told my guys that now we know where the bar is. It is tough to beat one of the top teams in the league when you only make one three. We came in off a good performance (at Miami) and unfortunately we couldn’t get on track today.
“You have to give Akron credit. They are a physical, tough, well-coached, well-balanced team, but I loved how our guys played, they played hard, they played tough.”
Northern Illinois (3-11, 1-1 MAC) and Akron went back-and-forth in the early going, with neither team leading by more than a pair in the first seven minutes. The Zips took the first lead of more than two points with 11:48 to play in the half when Nick Harney made a pair of free throws to put Akron ahead, 12-9.
Akron (11-4, 2-0 MAC) then used an 8-0 run to take a 22-11 lead with 8:37 to play in the half, forcing an NIU timeout. Sophomore wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) stopped the Zips burst with a pull-up jumper to cut the Akron lead back to single digits, but the Zips responded with the next five to take a 27-13 lead with seven minutes left before the intermission.
Nader finished with 10 points, his sixth double-figure scoring effort in seven games this season.
A pair of free throws by sophomore forward Keith Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) cut the Akron lead back to 10, 34-24, but the Zips ended the first half with a layup by Harney to take a 12-point lead into the intermission.
Reggie McAdams led all scorers with 12 before the intermission for Akron; Keith Gray had six to pace the Huskies. The opening 20 minutes of the contest featured 35 free throw attempts, with NIU going 14-of-21 from the charity stripe (66.7 percent) while Akron was 7-of-14 (50 percent). The Zips shot 48.1 percent (13-of-27) from the field in the opening half while holding the Huskies to just 22.7 percent (5-of-22).
The Akron lead hovered around 10 points early in the second stanza until a basket by Bowie and a triple from the top of the key by junior forward Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker) gave the Huskies a 5-0 burst and cut the Akron advantage to just a half-dozen, 47-41, with 11:31 to play.
Akron answered with an 11-2 run to push its lead to 62-45 with 6:06 to play and the Huskies were unable to overcome the deficit.
McAdams led all scorers with 60 points on 6-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, for Akron. Nick Harney added 12 points and Demetrius Treadwell and Deji Ibitayo each chipped in 11 for the Zips. Akron outrebounded NIU, 39-32, and the Zips bench outscored NIU’s 34-19.
The Huskies will return to action on Wednesday, Jan. 16, when they travel to Athens, Ohio, to meet Ohio University. Game time against the Bobcats is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.