Trailing by as much as 16 in the second half Sunday afternoon, the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team had a chance to tie the game in the final minute.
A pair of three-point attempts came up short, however, as the Huskies fell to Western Michigan, 74-71, at the NIU Convocation Center.
Redshirt junior Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) scored a team-high 16 points to lead NIU.
Junior Aaron Armstead (Chicago, Ill./Hales Franciscan/San Jose City College) added 14 points, sophomore Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) had 12 points and sophomore Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) had 11 points and a team-best seven rebounds.
“I thought both teams came out and played hard, but credit David Brown,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “I thought I was watching a NBA game watching him make shot after shot. He finally cooled off in the second half and I told my team that if we can bottle up the final 10 minutes, play that hard and with that much energy, these last eight games could be special.
“Credit Western Michigan, they are well-coached, they play extremely hard. I thought they controlled the glass but we battled back, we played hard, we just came up a little short.”
A 7-0 Western Michigan run, capped by a triple from Kellen McCormick, gave the Broncos a 63-47 lead with 12:05 to play in the second half, forcing a NIU timeout. The three from McCormick capped a 26-14 surge out of the intermission for Western Michigan in which the Broncos went 10-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-4 from three-point range.
Following the timeout, Baker canned a triple for the Huskies, igniting a 9-1 burst for the Huskies, with all nine points coming from the sophomore from Detroit, trimming the Broncos lead to 64-56 with eight minutes to play.
Western Michigan pushed its lead back to a dozen, 70-58, until another Huskie run cut the lead to just three. Bowie sparked the NIU rally with a triple, senior Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker) then added four-straight, including two from the free-throw line, and sophomore Daveon Balls (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) connected on a pair from the charity stripe to cut the lead to 70-67 with 2:20 left.
Bolin finished with nine points and three assists.
The Broncos led by four and had the basketball with just over a minute to play when Aaron Armstead came up with a steal and layup, cutting the lead to just two, 73-71, with 52 seconds left.
David Brown split a pair of three throws with 13 seconds to go, giving NIU a chance, down by three. Out of a timeout, the Huskies got a clean look at a triple from Baker, but the shot wouldn’t fall.
After a Huskie foul, Western Michigan missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity and Aaric Armstead’s desperation, 50-foot attempt to tie the game missed just right as the Broncos escaped with a three-point victory, ending NIU’s three-game winning streak.
David Brown finished with a game-high 26 points for the Broncos. Shayne Whittington added 15 and a game-high eight rebounds while Connar Tava chipped in 12 points.
Tied 6-6 in the early going, NIU used an 8-0 burst to take a 14-6 lead with 14:23 to play in the first half. Aaric Armstead started the run with a basket; redshirt junior Pete Rakocevic (Chicago, Ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State) and Aaron Armstead added triples as the Huskies took an early eight-point lead.
Western Michigan responded with a 9-0 run of its own, taking a 15-14 lead with 11:25 to play in the half.
Threloff scored the next three points as the lead swung back to the Huskies. The teams traded leads until Brown connected on a triple with 4:17 left to put the Broncos in front, 27-25. NIU was back within one, 34-33, but Brown closed the half with a triple, giving the Broncos a 37-33 advantage at the break.
Brown scored 20 points on 7-of-7 shooting, 4-of-4 from three, in the opening 20 minutes. Aaron Armstead led the way with 10 points. Western Michigan shot 58.3 percent (14-of-24) in the first half while NIU shot 48.3 percent (14-of-29) in the opening stanza.
NIU will close its three-game home stand Wednesday, Feb. 12, as the Huskies host Central Michigan. Game time against the Chippewas is scheduled for 7 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.