The Northern Illinois men’s basketball team fell, 74-70, in overtime to Carthage College in exhibition action Friday evening at the NIU Convocation Center.
Carthage connected on 13 three-pointers in the contest and shot 69.2 percent (9-of-13) from beyond the arc in the second half.
Freshman wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) lead the Huskies with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Senior forward Tim Toler (Indianapolis, Ind./Avon/Danville Area CC) added 17 points and seven rebounds while sophomore guard Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker) chipped in 10 points in a game that featured six ties and 10 lead changes.
“We just didn’t come out ready to go in the second half,” NIU head coach Mark Montgomery said. “We have a young team, there were times when we had four or five freshmen on the floor, so we will take this as a learning experience and we have to get better.”
Trailing 61-60 with just over three minutes to play in the second half, freshman Keith Gray (Chicago, Ill/Brooks Academy) finished at the rim to give the Huskies a one-point lead. Nader pushed the NIU lead to three on a pair of free throws with 1:46 to play in regulation before Malcolm Kelly drained a three with 46 remaining to force overtime.
In the extra session, the two teams traded free throws before a pair of triples put Carthage up by six, 72-66. An old-fashioned three-point play by redshirt sophomore Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn./Martin Luther King Magnet) brought NIU within three, 73-70, but that was as close as the Huskies would get.
Max Cary scored a game-high 20 to lead Carthage. Luke Johnson added 19 points and Kelly had 16 for the Red Men.
Carthage jumped out to an early 10-0 lead before Nader sparked 16-2 response with a 10-foot jumper with 15:43 to play in the first half. Six different Huskies scored during the run, including a triple from freshman guard Zach Miller (Chicago, Ill/Glenbard East).
After a basket by Carthage, freshman wing DeAndre Barnette (Jackson, Tenn./Liberty Tech) ignited a 12-2 burst for NIU with a triple from the corner. Toler added an old-fashioned three-point play and freshman guard Marquavese Ford (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw) knocked down a trifecta as the Huskies took a 28-16 lead with 3:48 remaining in the first half.
A floater from Miller gave NIU a 32-19 lead, an edge they would take to the intermission. The Huskies shot 44.8 percent from the floor (13-of-29) in the opening 20 minutes while holding Carthage to just 26.7 percent shooting (8-of-30).
Toler scored the first two points of the second half, but Carthage responded with a 10-0 run to cut the Huskie lead to 34-29 with 17 minutes left, forcing a NIU timeout.
“They came out in the second half and made shots, you have to give them credit,” Montgomery said. “What happens is you give a team confidence when they make shots and them all of the sudden they become better defenders. I don’t think we found a rhythm in the second half offensively.”
Carthage used a trio of three-pointers to take a 38-37 lead, but Bolin responded with a triple from the left wing to swing the lead back to the Huskies with 14:55 to play.
Even at 44 with 11 minutes remaining, the Red Men connected on a pair of three-pointers in an 8-1 run to lead 52-45 with just under nine minutes left.
Down by five, 58-53, with 5:33 remaining, the Huskies rattled off seven-straight points, five from the charity stripe, to take a two-point lead before a Kelly triple with 3:35 gave Carthage a 61-60 advantage.
The Huskies shot 75 percent (24-of-32) from the free-throw line, including 17-of-20 (85 percent) in the second half.
NIU will open the 2011-12 regular season Friday, Nov. 11, as the Huskies travel to West, Lafayette, Ind., to take on Purdue. Game time against the Boilermakers is scheduled for 6 p.m., and the contest will be shown live on ESPN3.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.