Mark Yelovich hit a turnaround jumper from the baseline at the buzzer to lift SIU Edwardsville to a 64-62 win over the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team on Saturday afternoon at the Vadalabene Center.
NIU trailed by five with 90 seconds to play but clawed back to even the game and appeared to have forced overtime until Yelovich’s 14-foot jumper spoiled the Huskie comeback. Yelovich finished with a game-high 22 points for the Cougars.
A layup by Yelovich put SIU Edwardsville in front, 62-57, with 1:35 remaining. On the ensuing possession, junior guard Tony Nixon (South Holland, Ill./Seton Academy) grabbed an offensive rebound, scored on the put-back and got fouled.
Nixon finished the three-point play, pulling the Huskies within a pair, 62-60, with 1:15 left.
NIU appeared to get a stop on the next possession as a loose ball went out of play, originally called off of the Cougars. After an official’s conference, the call was reversed. SIU Edwardsville missed a pair of free throws and the lead remained two.
Sophomore forward Aksel Bolin (Akser, Norway/Asker) drove to the basket, scored and was fouled with 27 seconds to play. Bolin missed the free throw and the game remained tied, 62-62. That was the only free throw the Huskies missed as they went 12-of-13 from the charity stripe.
On the final possession, the Cougars appeared out of sorts and the ball was fumbled along the baseline with time winding down until Yelovich secured possession and made the game-winning shot.
Nixon and freshman wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) each scored 12 points to lead the Huskies, Nader also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.
“It was an unbelievable game,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “You have to give SIUE credit, they were down at the half and came storming back … what a finish. I’m trying to figure out how Yelovich made that shot because we doubled him, there was a fumbled ball … It was a good game played both ways, both teams played hard and the game could have gone either way.”
NIU led by as many as 12 in the first half, freshman guard Marquavese Ford (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw) paced the Huskies with seven points before the intermission. NIU shot 55.6 percent (5-of-9) from beyond the three-point arc in the opening half; SIU Edwardsville shot 25.0 percent (4-of-12), but just 1-of-9 after starting the game 3-of-3.
The Huskies outscored the Cougars 12-4 in the paint before the break.
The Cougars used a 7-2 burst to begin the second half to cut the NIU lead to five, 36-31.
After a basket by Ford pushed the NIU lead back to seven, SIU Edwardsville used a 9-2 run to even the game, 40-40. The Cougar run reached 11-2 as SIU Edwardsville took its first lead of the second half, 42-40.
NIU answered and took a three-point lead, 53-50, when senior forward Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) connected on a pair from the charity stripe with 6:11 remaining.
Storm finished with six points, five rebounds and a game-high four assists.
An 8-0 run by SIU Edwardsville gave the Cougars a 58-53 lead with 4:21 to play in the contest. NIU pulled back within one on four consecutive free throws by Nader. Yelovich then made a pair of free throws and a layup to put the Cougars up 62-57 with 1:35 left.
NIU will return to conference play and continue its three-game road trip on Wednesday, Feb. 22, when the Huskies travel to Eastern Michigan. Game time against the Eagles is set for 6 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball, visit www.niuhuskies.com.