Northern Illinois’ furious comeback from an eight-point deficit in the final two minutes of the game fell just short as Xavier Silas’ three-point attempt from the top of the key bounced off the rim with 3.4 seconds left, giving Bradley a 66-63 victory over the Huskies at Carver Arena.
The Huskies had a chance at one final try after Silas’ three as Bradley’s Dodie Dunson missed a pair of free throws with 2.8 seconds on the clock, but Silas could not get the halfcourt shot attempt away.
The loss dropped the Huskies to 0-2 on the year while Bradley improved to 2-0.
Silas led the Huskies with 22 points despite sitting out the last 13 minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul. He scored 15 second-half points and was the man NIU wanted taking the final shot, said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton.
“Xavier had a good look at the basket,” Patton said. “It was from the top of the key, it was a shot we wanted, and the guy we wanted taking it, it just didn’t go in.”
Bradley staged a comeback of its own to build an eight-point lead after the Huskies took a nine-point lead at 55-46 midway through the second half.
The Braves then went on a 19-2 that began with a three-point shot by Sam Maniscalo, one of four second-half threes by the BU point guard in the second half. He added two more threes and two free throws during the Braves’ charge, while Andrew Warren, who led Bradley with 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting, scored six.
The Huskies did not score from 7:21 until Silas hit a layup with 2:24 remaining that made the score 65-59. NIU freshman Nate Rucker, who recorded his first career double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, hit a pair of free throws with 1:50 on the clock and then scored with a rebound and put-back with 56 seconds left to close the gap to 65-63. Warren added a free throw with 18 seconds left, setting up Silas’ final try.
While Patton was pleased with the effort and the late comeback, one statistic stood out to the fourth-year head coach.
“We had 20 turnovers and that equals 10 less opportunities to score,” Patton said. “We were our own worst enemy. I am pleased we fought hard and had a chance to tie the ball game at the end, but I am more concerned with the 20 turnovers. The good thing is, they are correctable mistakes. As this team grows up and plays together more, we will get better in that area.”
Sophomore Tony Nixon joined Silas and Rucker in double figures with 11 points, as he picked up for Silas in the first half with nine points. Kyree Jones and Tim Toler added six points apiece while Bryan Hall and Toler contributed seven rebounds each.
The Huskies dominated the glass as they pulled down 46 rebounds to Bradley’s 32.
Northern Illinois led at halftime, 30-28, but Bradley shot 41.4 percent from the field in the second half, including 50 percent from three-point range.
NIU returns to the Convocation Center at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21, to take on Cardinal Stritch Sunday. Children wearing their youth basketball jerseys will be admitted for just $1.