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Men’s hoops ‘Rockets’ to Senior Night win

March 1, 2012
Abdel Nader

Abdel Nader

The Northern Illinois men’s basketball team held Toledo scoreless for the final 4:27 of the contest, helping the Huskies earn a 65-61 comeback victory Wednesday night on Senior Night at the NIU Convocation Center.

The Huskies finished the game on an 8-0 run to erase a four-point deficit and earn the victory.

Freshman wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) led NIU with 12 points and sophomore forward Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker) added 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds in the victory.

“What a finish,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery.

“It was an interesting game. They got ahead of us; we came back and took the lead at the half. It all came together today; I always say that if we can have four-or-five guys score around eight points we are going to be in games. We did some different things, we pressed, we played some zone, and I thought a few key possessions down the stretch helped us win the game.”

NIU committed just 10 turnovers in the contest, just two in the second half, and used an 18-7 advantage in second-chance points to pick up the victory.

After Reese Holliday made a pair of free throws to put Toledo up 61-57 with 4:27 left, junior guard Tony Nixon (South Holland, Ill./Seton Academy) cut the Rocket lead in half, 61-59, with a short jumper.

The Huskies then used a 1-3-1 zone to slow down the Rocket offense, forcing a turnover.

Freshmen forward Keith Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) put the Huskies is front, 62-61, with an old-fashioned three-point play with 3:32 to go.

With the Huskies staying in the zone, as they would for much of the remainder of the contest, NIU got another defense stop, followed by a layup by Keith Gray to give the Huskies a three-point lead with just under three minutes remaining.

The score remained 64-61 into the closing moments, when a shot clock violation gave Toledo the ball with 7.8 seconds remaining.

On the ensuing inbounds play, freshman guard Marquavese Ford (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw) came up with a steal, forcing the Rockets to foul. Ford split the free throws and the Huskies came away with the four-point win.

Dominique Buckley led Toledo with 16 points; Julius Brown added 12 and Curtis Dennis finished with 11 points for the Rockets.

Trailing by a pair in the early going, Toledo used an 11-0 run to take a 13-4 lead with 14:13 to play in the first half.

Aksel Bolin

Aksel Bolin

The Toledo lead would reach as much as a dozen, but an 11-2 run for the Huskies pulled NIU within a pair, 30-28, with 3:13 left before the half. Nixon started the run with a pair of free throws before freshman guard Stian Berg (Baerum, Norway/Norges Toppidretts Gymnas) sandwiched a pair of triples around a Toledo basket. Bolin then added a trifecta from the wing, cutting the Rocket to lead two.

The Huskie run reached 17-2, giving NIU a 34-30 lead with 42 seconds left in the half. Bolin converted an old-fashioned three-point play to put the Huskies in front and Berg connected on his third triple of the half to give NIU a four-point lead.

Toledo scored the first seven points to begin the second half, taking a 39-34 lead two-and-a-half minutes in to the second stanza.

The Rocket lead hovered around a half-dozen until a pair of free throws by Rian Pierson put the Rockets up eight, 57-49, with 7:27 to play.

A pair of free throws by Keith Gray and four points from Nader got NIU within a deuce, 57-55. After Holliday made a pair from the charity stripe and senior forward Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) answered with a  jumper, Holliday connected on two more from the line, Toledo’s final points of the night, giving the Rockets a four-point lead.

The Huskies outscored Toledo 16-4 in the final seven-and-a-half minutes of the contest.

Northern Illinois will conclude the regular season on Saturday, March 3, when it travels to Muncie, Ind., to face Ball State. Game time against the Cardinals is slated for 1 p.m. CT.

For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit

Men’s basketball seniors DeMarcus Grady and Tyler Storm pose with their families, Coach Mark Montgomery and Athletics Director Jeff Compher.

Men’s basketball seniors DeMarcus Grady and Tyler Storm pose with their families, Coach Mark Montgomery and Athletics Director Jeff Compher.