Redshirt junior center Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) scored a career-high 17 points and sophomore guard Daveon Balls (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) added a career-best 15, both from off the bench, as the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team defeated San Jose State, 60-59, on Saturday night in the NIU Invitational at the NIU Convocation Center.
“I thought both teams played extremely hard,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery.
“It’s tough to go back-to-back nights. I thought our preparation was unbelievable, we had two walkthroughs earlier today, our guys had patience tonight and we shot 70 percent from the free-throw line. I thought we had better patience and better rhythm tonight. Everything wasn’t perfect but our guys fought, hung together and found a way to finish the game.
“Players make plays, they made the plays tonight, it wasn’t anything the coaches called. Our point guards delivered. (Jordan) Threloff finished, Daveon Balls made some plays, it feels great to get a win.”
After leading by a pair at the half, 26-24, NIU (1-2) maintained the lead, but never by more than five points, until a triple from D.J. Brown pulled San Jose State ahead for the first time in the second half with 7:42 left.
The lead went back-and-forth until a bucket by Threloff put the Huskies in front, 46-44, with 5:47 to play.
San Jose State (0-3) clawed back within one, 49-48, but another basket from Threloff extended the NIU lead once again. Threloff scored six-straight NIU points to help the Huskies create a six-point cushion, 55-49, with just over three minutes to play. The Spartans would not go away however as a pair of free throws and a triple from Jaleel Williams brought San Jose State back within one, 55-54, with two minutes left.
Still leading 55-54 with 17 seconds remaining, sophomore guard Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) connected on a pair of free throws to give NIU a three-point lead.
Baker finished the contest with four points and a career-high tying six assists.
Three free throws for NIU, including a pair for junior Aaron Armstead (Chicago, Ill./Hales Franciscan/San Jose City College), offset by a pair for San Jose State gave NIU a four-point lead, 60-56, with just five ticks left.
Isaac Thornton hit a triple for San Jose State to cut the gap to just one with eight-tenths of a second to play but NIU hung on to claim its first win of the season.
Fuelled by Threloff’s 17 and Balls’ 15, the NIU bench scored 45 of its 60 points, and outscored San Jose State’s bench by 30 points. Threloff also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds as the Huskies bettered the Spartans on the glass, 47-37, using that advantage to claim a 17-8 edge in second chance points.
NIU shot 70.4 percent (19-of-27) from the free-throw line and outscored San Jose State 30-10 in the paint. The Spartans countered NIU’s inside advantage with 10 triples.
Williams led San Jose State with 13 points; Brown added 12 while Jalen James and Rashad Muhammad each chipped in 11.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.