The Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team rallied from a 14-point second half deficit to defeat Kent State, 50-49, on Wednesday night at the M.A.C. Center.
Senior Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker) scored a game-high 14 points and sophomore Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) scored 11, including two free throws with five seconds to play to give the Huskies the victory.
Redshirt junior Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) chipped in 10 points and a game-high eight rebounds. The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Huskies at Kent State, a streak that dated back to 2003.
“It was a great comeback and a great team win,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “We had three guys score in double figures and Kent State only had one, so our defensive effort was very good. When we got behind in the second half, we didn’t panic. We just said, ‘Let’s get three stops in a row,’ and we were able to keep plugging away.”
A 12-0 run by Kent State early in the second half gave the Golden Flashes a 40-26 lead with 14:29 to play in the contest.
NIU (8-11, 2-5 MAC) answered with a 14-3 burst, trimming the Kent State lead to just three, 43-40. Baker started the burst with a pair of baskets, Bolin added his third triple of the night and Baker capped the run with an old-fashioned three-point play with 8:31 left.
A basket by Kent State (11-9, 2-5 MAC) pushed the lead to five, but free throws from sophomore Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) and Bolin pulled NIU within one, 45-44, as the Huskie run reached 14-2, with 4:29 to play.
Bowie finished with eight points and seven rebounds.
The Huskies took their first lead of the second half, 46-45, on a bucket by Bowie with 3:16 to go. Kent State answered with a dunk out of a timeout with just over two minutes left to regain the lead.
A pair of free throws from Bolin pushed the Huskies back in front, 48-47, with 30 seconds to play, but 19 seconds later the Golden Flashes were back in front following two free throws from Devareaux Manley.
Immediately after the second make, Baker pushed the ball up the floor, got to the rim and got fouled. The sophomore from Detroit stepped to the line and coolly drained both free throws to give the Huskies a 50-49 advantage with 5.2 seconds left.
Following a timeout, Kent State got across half-court and launched a desperation three, but the shot didn’t go and the Huskies finished the 14-point comeback.
Darren Goodson was the only player in double figures for Kent State, he finished with 10 points.
Kent State jumped out to an early 10-3 lead before a pair of triples from Bolin, and a short corner jumper by redshirt junior Pete Rakocevic (Chicago, Ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State), helped the Huskies trim the Golden Flashes lead back to just one, 12-11, with 12:09 to play in the first half.
A 6-0 burst help Kent State push its lead back to seven, 18-11, but the Huskies answered with a baskets from Bowie and a pair of buckets from Threloff to cut the lead back to just one with 6:14 left in the half.
After the lead grew back to eight for Kent State, a pair of free throws from Baker and a dunk by freshman Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) cut the lead to four, 25-21, with just over a minute left in the half. A triple from Derek Jackson just before the buzzer gave the Golden Flashes a seven-point lead, 28-21, at the break.
Bolin led NIU with seven points; Jackson paced the Golden Flashes with seven. NIU shot 42.1 percent (8-of-19) while holding Kent State to just 36 percent (9-of-25) shooting, but the Golden Flashes forced 13 Huskie turnovers, turning those into 13 points, to hold the halftime advantage.
An old-fashioned three-point play by Aaric Armstead and a tip dunk by Threloff opened the second stanza, cutting the Kent State lead to just a pair, 28-26. The Golden Flashes answered with a 12-0 run to take a 40-26 lead with 14:29 to play in the contest, setting up the Huskie comeback.
NIU will return to action Saturday, Feb. 1, when the Huskies travel to Muncie, Ind., to face Ball State. Game time against the Cardinals is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT. For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.