Tied with four minutes to play, the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team scored 10 of the final 13 points to earn a 64-57 victory over Dartmouth on Thursday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Sophomore wing Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) scored a team-high 12 points, junior center Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) added 11 and both Bowie and Threloff grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Junior center Pete Rakocevic (Chicago, Ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State) chipped in 10 points, including 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.
“What a game!” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “It seems like every game we are in is decided in the last few seconds. I thought we played an unbelievable first half, the guys came out with great energy and we built a big lead. We maintained that lead for about 10 minutes in the second half, then we had a few turnovers and lost control of the game.
“You have to credit Dartmouth, they made some threes, they got the ball inside, they got to the foul line and battled back to take the lead. I thought our guys reached down and made some unbelievable plays down the stretch. They executed the offense and Darrell Bowie came up with an unbelievable, winning play on that missed free throw to put us up five.”
NIU (3-4) led at the intermission, 35-24, and the lead grew to 13 on the first possession of the second half on a steal and layup by freshman guard Dontel Highsmith (Dowagiac, Mich./Dowagiac).
Dartmouth (3-2) answered, going on a 13-4 run to cut the Huskie advantage back to just four, 41-37, with 13:38 to play. From that point, neither team led by more than six until the waning moments.
A layup by senior forward Aksel Bolin (Akser, Norway/Asker) pushed the lead to a half-dozen, 43-37, but the Big Green continued to chip away. After a pair of free throws by senior guard Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn./Martin Luther King Magnet) put the Huskies up four, 47-43, John Golden buried a triple to bring Dartmouth within one with just under nine minutes left.
Following the under eight media timeout, Gabas Maldunas made a pair of free throws to give the Big Green their first lead of the second half, 48-47.
The teams traded baskets over the next four minutes, with a layup by Bowie tying the game at 54 with 4:03 left. A steal by freshman Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep), who was making his first collegiate start, led to a free-throw line pull-up jumper from sophomore guard Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) to pull the Huskies back in front, 56-54.
Dartmouth split a pair of free throws before a layup by Bowie gave NIU a three-point advantage, 58-55, with just 1:28 left. The two teams traded baskets, with Threloff sinking a hook shot in the lane, as the Huskies still led by three with 33 seconds to play.
Following a timeout, Dartmouth missed a layup and was forced to foul, sending Bolin to the line for NIU. Shooting a one-and-one, Bolin’s first free throw rimmed out but Bowie was able to grab the rebound and score to give the Huskies a five-point lead, 62-57, with just 7.4 seconds left. Dartmouth missed a triple try and Threloff iced the game with a pair of free throws as the Huskies outlasted the Big Green.
Maldunas finished with a game-high 18 points on 8-of-14 shooting for Dartmouth, Alex Mitola added 13 points and Golden finished with 12.
In the first half, Dartmouth pulled out to a seven-point lead, 21-14, midway through the half before NIU went on a 21-0 run.
Sparked by eight points off the bench from sophomore guard J.J. Cravatta (Streator, Ill./Streator Township), the Huskies scored 21-straight, holding Dartmouth scoreless for over nine-and-a-half minutes.
Cravatta went 2-of-2 from beyond the arc and 2-of-2 from the free-throw line as the Huskies built a 35-21 lead with 44 seconds left in the first half before Dartmouth scored the final three points of the opening stanza to cut the lead to 11, 35-24, at the break.
Cravatta and Rakocevic, who had six of his 10 in the first half, helped the Huskie bench outscore Dartmouth’s 28-7 in the contest.
Following a week off for finals, NIU will return to action next Saturday, Dec. 14, when it travels to Amherst, Mass., to face the nationally ranked UMass Minutemen. Game time against UMass is scheduled for 2 p.m. CT and will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.