Eastern Illinois led by two at the half and used an 8-0 to open the second stanza to build a lead that Northern Illinois couldn’t overcome, defeating the Huskies, 59-47, on Saturday afternoon at the NIU Convocation Center.
Sophomore wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) led NIU with 17 points and seven rebounds.
“I thought it was a hard fought first half,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery.
“It was one of those games that was a grinder, one or two possession, lead changes. I thought that Eastern Illinois came out of the locker room a little better than us, they went on that 8-0 run and that was the difference. We got it close, within three; we just couldn’t come up with enough stops and enough baskets.”
In the opening 20 minutes, the Huskies and Panthers traded leads 11 times, with five ties. Northern Illinois jumped on top 5-0 to open the contest. Freshman wing Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) and Nader each had a basket in the opening moments and Nader added a free throw to give the Huskies the early edge.
Bowie finished with eight points and five rebounds.
After Eastern Illinois pulled back to even, 6-6, neither team held a lead larger than three the rest of the first half.
Trailing by three, 24-21, redshirt junior guard Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn./Martin Luther King Magnet) pulled the Huskies back even with a triple with just over three minutes to play before the intermission.
Freshman guard Mike Davis (Garfield Heights, Ohio/Garfield Heights) split a pair of free throws to give the Huskies a one-point lead with just over a minute to play in the half, but Malcolm Herron drained a triple with 16 seconds left to take a two-point lead into the break.
Out of the intermission, Morris Woods scored the first basket, followed by four free throws for the Panthers and a bucket by Josh Piper to give Eastern Illinois a 35-25 lead just over three minutes into the second stanza.
The lead was still 10 just before the midway point of the half when the Huskies went on a 7-0 run. Christian ignited the burst for NIU with a triple, Nader then connected on back-to-back baskets as the Huskies pulled within three, 42-39, with 8:51 to play in the contest.
Woods and Bowie traded buckets before Eastern Illinois went on an 8-0 run to push the lead to 11, 52-41, with 3:45 left, spoiling the Huskie comeback attempt.
Woods finished with 18 points to lead the Panthers. Sherman Blanford and Piper each added nine for EIU. The Panthers out-rebounded the Huskies 37-28 in the contest.
Northern Illinois will return to Mid-American Conference play Wednesday, Feb. 27, when the Huskies host Eastern Michigan at the NIU Convocation Center. Game time against the Eagles is slated for 7 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.