Freshman forward Keith Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) and freshman wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) each scored 13 points, but the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team fell, 75-51, to MAC-leading Akron on Saturday night at Rhodes Arena.
The Huskies trailed by single-digits early in the second half but a 14-0 run by the Zips helped Akron pull away down the stretch.
“We definitely concentrated on the first five minutes of the game, getting off to a good start,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery.
“We wanted to make sure that we were aggressive and we were concentrating on both ends of the floor. I give credit to our guys; we were only down seven at the half against a team that is very explosive and deep. We really competed for about 25 minutes in that game and then the ball started to bounce Akron’s way.”
NIU out-rebounded Akron 35-25 in the contest, including 18-6 on the offensive end of the floor. The Zips shot 53.2 percent (25-of-47) in the contest to just 33.3 percent (18-of-54) for the Huskies. Akron held a 21-12 advantage at the free-throw line.
Trailing by a half-dozen, 10-4, NIU used a seven-point burst to take an 11-10 lead with 12:24 to play in the first half. Redshirt sophomore guard Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn./Martin Luther King Magnet) started the spurt with a basket; Nader followed with a triple from the wing and then connected on a scoop shot in the lane to give the Huskies the one-point lead. Following a timeout, the Huskie run reached 9-0 on a tip-in by freshman forward Kevin Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy).
The Zips pulled back within one, 17-16, and then used a 12-3 run to take a 28-20 lead with 2:47 to play in the half.
Akron took a 31-24 lead into the intermission, Nader led NIU with eight points and Christian added seven in the opening 20 minutes. Demetrius Treadwell led the Zips with seven in the first half.
The Huskies and Zips traded the lead 10 times in the opening half with the difference coming at the free-throw line where Akron went 9-of-14 while NIU was just 1-of-2. The Huskies turned the ball over 13 times in the opening stanza but out-rebounded the Zips 20-9, including 10-1 on the offensive boards.
Both teams started the second half slow from the field, but Akron converted five times from the free-throw line in the first three minutes and when the Zips connected on their first field goal, a triple, with 15:30 to play, the lead had grown to 12, 39-27.
The Huskies and Zips went back-and-forth until a 14-0 run, gave Akron a 59-34 lead with just over eight minutes left in the contest.
Nikola Cvetinovic led the Zips with 14 points; Nick Harney added 12 and Treadwell finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for Akron.
The Huskies will return to action against MAC West Division foes on Wednesday, Feb. 15, when they host Western Michigan at the NIU Convocation Center. Game time against the Broncos is slated for 7 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.