The Northern Illinois men’s basketball team allowed just eight second half points en route to a 72-46 victory over Roosevelt University on Monday night at the NIU Convocation Center. The Huskies held the Lakers to just 7.4 percent (2-of-27) second half shooting to erase a five-point halftime deficit and give head coach Mark Montgomery his first career win.
Redshirt sophomore guard Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn./Martin Luther King Magnet) led the Huskies with a game-high 14 points. Senior forward Tim Toler (Indianapolis, Ind./Avon/Danville Area CC) added 12 points, freshman wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) scored 11 points and freshman guard Marquavese Ford (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw) chipped in 10 points, marking the first time all season more than two Huskies had reached double figures in a game.
“We came out in the first half and it looked like we were on Christmas break,” said Montgomery. “Fortunately we responded and went on a big run, but we were still down at halftime. But anytime you can hold a team to eight points in a half that is great defense … I was proud of my guys; this has been a long wait. They came back from the break and worked hard for seven days and you can see the results.”
Freshman forward Kevin Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) grabbed a career-best nine rebounds and added seven points for the Huskies who shot 50.9 percent (27-of-53) from the floor in the contest. NIU outrebounded Roosevelt 49-26.
Leading 8-7 early in the contest, Roosevelt used a 15-3 run to take a 23-10 lead with 11:18 left in the half, forcing an NIU timeout.
Following the timeout, the Huskies responded with a 13-2 run to pull within a pair, 25-23, with just under six minutes left before the intermission. Nader opened the run with a jumper; he added two more baskets and Toler made a pair of buckets before freshman guard Stian Berg (Baerum, Norway/Norges Toppidretts Gymnas) capped the run with a triple.
After an old-fashioned three-point play by the Lakers, Ford scored five straight to even the game, 28-28, but Roosevelt answered with six-straight points, taking a 34-28 lead with 2:36 left before the half.
NIU cut the Laker advantage to five, 38-33, going into the intermission. Roosevelt’s Paul Tometich had seven points to lead the Lakers in the first half, Ford and Toler each had seven for the Huskies. NIU shot 44.8 percent (13-of-29) in the opening 20 minutes while Roosevelt went 13-of-31 (41.9 percent) from the floor in the opening stanza.
Still trailing by five, Christian connected on a jumper from the elbow and a triple from the wing to even the contest, 42-42, with 15:50 left in the second half, igniting a 19-0 run for the Huskies.
Ford gave NIU its first lead of the night, 45-42, with a triple and a Nader trifecta from the wing doubled the Huskie advantage. Then NIU held Roosevelt scoreless for nearly eight minutes until a free throw with 9:33 left stopped the run with NIU leading 56-43.
The Huskies closed the game with a 16-3 run as they outscored Roosevelt 39-8 in the second half.
For final statistics, more information on NIU basketball or Huskie athletics information, visit www.niuhuskies.com. NIU will begin Mid-American Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 7, when the Huskies host Eastern Michigan at 3 p.m., at the NIU Convocation Center.