The Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team had two possessions to tie or take the lead in the final minute Saturday night, but Eastern Illinois made a pair of stops and held on for a 59-55 victory over the Huskies at Lantz Arena.
Junior Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds, redshirt senior Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) added 13 points and six boards.
“We were behind by 13 before we really got going,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “Give our guys credit, we battled back but Eastern Illinois made a couple of shots at the end of the game and we just were unable to get back over the hump.”
A pair of free throws by sophomore Michael Orris (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee/Kansas State) put the Huskies in front, 48-47, with 6:33 to play until a quick 8-0 burst, including back-to-back threes, gave Eastern Illinois a 55-48 lead. A free throw by senior Aaron Armstead (Chicago, Ill./Hales Franciscan/San Jose City College) and a triple from Bowie cut the EIU lead to three, 55-52.
Trae Anderson made a basket to extend the Panther lead to five before Bowie answered with another triple to cut the lead to a pair, 57-55, with 2:28 to play.
After missed shots on both ends, sophomore Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) came up with a steal in the final minute to give the ball back to NIU. On the resulting possession, Orris drove to the basket and made a layup that appeared to tie the game, but the Huskie sophomore was whistled for an offensive foul with 26 seconds to play.
NIU (3-3) fouled and the Panthers missed the front end of a 1-and-1, giving the Huskies another chance, but a turnover gave the ball back to Eastern Illinois (4-6) and the Panthers made a pair of free throws to put the game away.
LeTrell Viser scored 16 points to lead EIU; Dylan Chatman added 14 points for the Panthers.
NIU led 6-2 after back-to-back baskets by Threloff before Eastern Illinois responded with the next 13 to take a nine-point lead, 15-6. Senior Pete Rakocevic (Chicago, Ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State) finally ended the Panther run with a pair of free throws with 11:10 to play in the opening half.
Eastern Illinois pushed its lead to 13, but NIU responded with the next seven to cut the Panther advantage to 23-17. Bowie opened the burst with a bucket, junior Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) added a triple from the wing and Bowie went coast-to-coast for a layup as the Huskies trimmed the lead to six with just over seven minutes to play in the first half.
The Panther lead grew back to eight, but a trifecta from Aaric Armstead cut the EIU lead back to five and Eastern Illinois took a 31-26 lead into the intermission.
With the Panthers leading, 36-29, NIU went on a 10-0 run to take its first lead since the early going. Senior Anthony Johnson (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young/Purdue) started the run with a layup. Bowie scored four during the run, Baker hit a triple and Aaric Armstead capped the Huskie burst with a free throw.
The lead swung back-and-forth with the pair of free throws by Orris giving NIU a 48-47 edge before the run that put Eastern Illinois in front for good.
The Huskies will return home Tuesday, Dec. 16, as they host Mississippi Valley State. Game time against the Delta Devils is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the contest will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.