The Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team led by as much as 18 in the second half en route to a 71-64 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Senior Anthony Johnson (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young/Purdue) scored a team-high 14 points to lead five Huskies with nine-or-more points in the contest.
With the win, NIU improves to 4-3 overall and pushes its home win streak to nine consecutive games dating back to last season, NIU’s longest home win streak since the end of the 1993-94 campaign and the beginning of the 1994-95 season when the Huskies also won nine-straight at home.
Senior Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) added 10 points and seven rebounds, sophomore Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) chipped in 10 points and junior Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) had nine points and a game-high eight rebounds.
“I thought we played in stretches,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “It seemed like we were good for 5-10 minutes, then we went to sleep for five minutes and tried to turn it back on. We have to make sure that we play a complete 40 minutes.
“Our shooting was a lot better tonight; we shot 49 percent from the field. We struggled with our free-throw shooting tonight, we are always very solid on the boards and we were plus-20 tonight. I thought a lot of guys played solid basketball.”
Leading by a pair midway through the first half, back-to-back layups by Johnson and Bowie stretched the NIU lead to six, 18-12, before a triple by DeAngelo Priar cut the NIU lead in half.
Aaric Armstead extended the Huskie advantage to five before the Delta Devils responded with the next five to even the contest, 20-20, with six minutes to play in the half.
Tied, 29-29, Threloff made a free throw, missed the second and Aaric Armstead scored a pair off the offensive rebound to push the Huskies back in front. Aaric Armstead added a layup as the five-point NIU burst gave the Huskies a 34-29 lead with 1:27 to play before the intermission.
A triple by Jordan Washington, his third of the half, helped Mississippi Valley State (1-9) cut the NIU lead to three, 36-33, at the break. Washington had 15 first half points to keep the Delta Devils close; Bowie had seven in the opening 20 minutes to pace NIU.
The Huskies and Delta Devils traded baskets early in the second half before a jump hook by senior Pete Rakocevic ignited a 17-1 run for NIU, giving the Huskies a 58-40 lead, its largest of the contest, with 10:51 to play.
Rakocevic finished with six points, five rebounds, three blocks and an assist in 17 minutes off the bench.
Senior Aaron Armstead (Chicago, Ill./Hales Franciscan/San Jose City College) followed Rakocevic’s jump hook with a pair of triples from the wing to push the NIU lead to double-digits, 49-39. Aaron Armstead scored nine points off the bench as the Huskie reserves outscored the Mississippi Valley State bench, 25-10.
Threloff made a pair of free throws to give NIU the 18-point edge before Priar knocked down a triple for the Delta Devils.
The NIU lead was 17, 63-46, with less than eight minutes to play when Mississippi Valley State used a 13-2 run of its own to pull back within six, 65-59, with 3:26 left.
Threloff and Aaric Armstead both scored on offensive rebounds on back-to-back possessions to push the NIU lead back to 10. The Huskies scored 20 second-chance points on 16 offensive rebounds to just three on six offensive boards for Mississippi Valley State.
The Huskies still led by 10 when Washington hit a triple in the final seconds to cut the final margin to seven, 71-64. Washington finished with a game-high 21 points, Priar added 17 for the Delta Devils.
NIU will return to the road Friday, Dec. 19, as it travels to Hanover, N.H., to face Dartmouth. Game time against the Big Green is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.