Trailing by as many as 10 points in the second half, the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team used a 21-8 run to close the game to earn a 62-59 victory over Miami University on Wednesday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Senior forward Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) scored a career-best 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-4 from behind the three-point arc.
Sophomore forward Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker) added 12 points, a game-high nine rebounds and a team-best four assists while freshman guard Stian Berg (Baerum, Norway/ Norges Toppidretts Gymnas) chipped in 11 points in 36 minutes of action.
“It was probably the best two halves of basketball we have played all year,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery.
“Guys made big plays, we had to show resiliency after getting down 10 in the second half. Tyler Storm started it, we missed a lot of shots but we grabbed offensive rebounds and converted tip-ins. No matter what, the staples of this program are going to be rebounding and defense, we had 16 offensive rebounds and we made them count.”
A triple by Miami’s Jon Harris, one of five threes for Harris on the night, gave the RedHawks a 51-41 lead just past the midway point of the second half, but that’s when the NIU comeback began.
A tip-in and a trifecta from Storm, followed by a tip-in from Bolin, quickly cut the Miami lead to just three, 51-48. Following another Miami triple, Bolin had another put-back and a free throw and junior guard Tony Nixon (South Holland, Ill./Seton Academy) added a tip-in to cut the lead to one, 54-53, with 4:42 to play.
Nixon finished with six points and five rebounds.
Miami responded with a basket to regain a three-point lead before Storm scored and Bolin knocked down a triple to give NIU a 58-56 lead with two-and-a-half minutes left.
Neither team scored for the next 90 seconds until a pair of free throws by Miami’s Quinten Rollins tied the game at 58.
On the next possession, Berg drove baseline and threw in a circus up-and-under layup to put NIU up 60-58 with 39 seconds to play.
“Tyler (Storm) set a good ball screen, they had to switch and I had (Julian) Mavunga on me, so I was trying to draw a foul (on the drive),” said Berg of his layup. “I was seeking contact and I just threw it up and it went in.”
Miami split a pair of free throws and Berg made a pair to put NIU up by three with 2.5 seconds left. On the final possession, Miami got the ball to midcourt and appeared to send the game to overtime with a triple at the buzzer, but upon review the shot was after the horn and the Huskies claimed the victory.
NIU shot 44.4 percent (12-of-27) in the second half while holding Miami to just 36 percent (9-of-25) shooting. The Huskies converted 25 second chance points in the contest, holding the RedHawks to just 12 second chance points. The NIU bench outscored its Miami counterpart, 35-11.
Julian Mavunga and Harris led Miami with 15 points, Mavunga was held to just two rebounds in the contest, he came in averaging a league-best 10.1 boards per game.
Even at 22 with five minutes left in the first half, Miami scored five-straight to open up a 27-22 advantage before NIU finished the half with an 8-2 burst to take a 30-29 lead into the intermission.
Freshman forward Keith Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) opened the second half with a pair of free throws before Miami used a 15-2 run to take a 44-34 lead with just over 14 minutes left. The RedHawks lead hung around 10 for the next five minutes until NIU went on its game-winning run.
NIU will play its final regular season game against the MAC East when it travels to Akron on Saturday, Feb. 11. Game time between the Huskies and Zips is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.