The Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team was held scoreless for the final three minutes and Eastern Michigan scored the final 10 points of the contest to slip past the Huskies, 56-52, on Saturday afternoon at the EMU Convocation Center.
Freshman Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) scored 11 points and also finished with five rebounds and four steals, he was the only Huskie in double figures.
“I thought both teams came out and competed at a high level,” NIU head coach Mark Montgomery said. “Give Eastern Michigan credit, they didn’t give up, down 13, they regrouped and made some big plays down the stretch. Like the game in DeKalb, it could have gone either way, it was no different today.
“They are one of the best defenses in the country, that zone give you fits, and (Mike) Talley made the shot of his life. Unfortunately we didn’t have him guarded on that play, but credit him for stepping up and making a big shot.”
Eastern Michigan (17-12, 9-7 MAC) jumped out to an early 8-3 advantage, but NIU (13-15, 7-9 MAC) answered with a 7-0 burst to take a two point lead, 10-8, with 13:14 to play in the first half. Aaric Armstead opened the run with a triple from the corner and a pair of free throws. Sophomore Daveon Balls (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) capped the spurt with a layup on the break as the Huskies moved in front.
Balls finished with eight points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field.
The Eagles answered with an 8-2 burst to go in front by four, 16-12, but a pair of free throws from Aaric Armstead and a layup by senior Aksel Bolin (Akser, Norway/Akser) pulled NIU back even with just under eight minutes left in the half.
Bolin had nine points to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
With Eastern Michigan in front by three, 21-18, NIU used a 10-0 run to take a seven-point lead, 28-21, with 2:43 to play in the half. Bolin scored four during the run as NIU took its largest lead of the half. The Eagles made a free throw before the intermission, cutting the NIU lead to 28-22 at the break.
Eastern Michigan scored the first four points of the second half, trimming the NIU lead to just a pair, 28-26. NIU answered with a short jumper from Bolin and a thunderous dunk on the break by Aaric Armsead to push the lead back to a half-dozen
The lead had been cut back to a pair until an 11-0 run by the Huskies pushed the lead to 43-30 with 12:38 to play. Sophomore Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) started the run with a layup, Balls then connected on a triple and Balls and Bowie each converted old-fashioned three-point plays.
Eastern Michigan responded with a 12-0 run, cutting the NIU lead to just one, 43-42, with just under nine minutes remaining.
Five-straight points by the Huskies, four of which came from redshirt junior Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State), helped NIU push its lead back to six, 50-44, with 5:41 to play.
Threloff finished with eight points and a game-high nine rebounds.
With the Huskies still leading by six, 52-46, Eastern Michigan scored six-straight, to even the game with 90 seconds left.
After missed shots by both teams, the Eagles had the ball out of bounds under their own basket with 23.9 seconds left. The inbounds pass found Mike Talley in the corner; he connected on a triple and put the Eagles in front by three. The Huskies could not convert on the other end and Eastern Michigan sealed the win with a free throw.
Talley scored 21 points to lead Eastern Michigan; Darrell Combs added 11 points for the Eagles.
NIU will be back on the road Tuesday night, March 4, when the Huskies travel to Kalamazoo, Mich., to face Western Michigan. Game time against the Broncos is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.