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Men’s hoops roars back to win third straight

February 5, 2014
Travon Baker

Travon Baker

The Northern Illinois men’s basketball team outscored Miami (Ohio) 25-4 in the final 14 minutes Tuesday night to claim its third consecutive victory, 53-41, at the NIU Convocation Center.

Senior Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker), sophomore Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) and junior Aaron Armstead (Chicago, Ill./Hales Franciscan/San Jose City College) each scored 10 points for the Huskies.

NIU (10-11, 4-5 MAC) erased a 10-point first half deficit, holding the RedHawks to just 14 points in the second half.

Redshirt junior Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds and also added three blocks. Redshirt junior Pete Rakocevic (Chicago, Ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State) also had three blocks, to go along with six points and four rebounds.

“I guess you have to call us the comeback kids again,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “We were down double figures, and we have to find a way to get off to a better start, but I thought our defensive effort never wavered. Once we started to stop their transition, and it became a half-court game, I thought our defense picked up.

“Thank god for the Armstead brothers in the second half, they had 15 points (combined) in the second half, so they had over half of our (second half) points. Our defense was tremendous in the second half, we took care of the basketball, and we found a way to win the game.”

NIU shot 41.2 percent (21-of-51) in the contest and held Miami to just 30 percent (15-of-50) shooting, including 24 percent (6-of-25) in the second half.

Jordan Threloff

Jordan Threloff

Miami (9-11, 5-4 MAC) led 37-28 on a layup by Will Sullivan with 14:12 to play, but from there the Huskies took over. Aaron Armstead connected on a pair of triples and a layup to bring the Huskies within one, 37-36, with 12:40 to play.

A trifecta from Baker gave NIU its first lead, 39-37, with 12 minutes left. Baskets by Rakocevic and Aaron Armstead pushed the Huskie run to 15-0 and the NIU lead reached half-dozen, 43-37.

The RedHawks scored to cut the lead back to four, by freshman Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) canned a triple and sophomore Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) made a layup as NIU pushed the lead back to nine, 48-39. A basket by Miami with 5:08 to play cut the lead to seven, but that was the last field goal the RedHawks would make in the contest.

Bolin answered the Miami basket with a triple as the NIU lead reached double digits, 51-41, and the Huskies closed out their third consecutive victory.

This marks the first time NIU has won three-straight games since winning six in a row during the 2009-10 season (Jan. 2, 2010-Jan. 20, 2010). NIU has trailed by at least 10 points in all three wins on the current streak. The Huskies trailed by 14 last Wednesday at Kent State (Jan. 29), by 15 this past Saturday at Ball State (Feb. 1) and by as much as 10 in the first half tonight.

Aksel Bolin

Aksel Bolin

Miami raced out to a 15-5 lead in the opening eight minutes of the contest. NIU trimmed the deficit back to just one, 19-18, with five minutes to play in the first half. Baker connected on a triple and Bolin scored five-straight points to trim the RedHawk lead to just a point.

The RedHawks pushed the lead back to five, 27-22, but a pair of baskets by Baker to close the half pulled the Huskies back within one, 27-26, at the break.

Baker finished with four steals and three assists to go along with his 10 points.

Joshua Oswald was the only RedHawk in double figures, he had 10 points.

NIU will return to action this Sunday, Feb. 9, when the Huskies host Western Michigan at the NIU Convocation Center at 3:30 p.m. The contest is part of a doubleheader with the Huskie women’s basketball team; they play Ball State at 1 p.m.

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