In a contest that featured 13 ties and 14 lead changes, a pair of late free throws led Kent State to a 67-65 victory over Northern Illinois University on Saturday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Senior center Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) scored a season-high 21 points and added nine rebounds but the Huskies saw their school-record tying 11-game home win streak come to a close.
Senior guard Anthony Johnson (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young/Purdue) added 14 points as the Huskies played without leading scorer Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) for the second consecutive game.
“Whenever we play Kent State it is a battle,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “It was a battle here last year, it was a battle at their place last year, we split (a year ago). They are a very good team. If you weren’t rooting for either team you saw a very good game.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t find enough things down the stretch to win the game. We have to be able to defend without fouling and I thought we fouled just a little bit too much. Give both teams credit, both teams played hard for 40 minutes, played with great energy and great effort, we just fouled too much and it cost us.”
Tied, 29-29, at the intermission neither team led by more than five points in the second half of a game that came down to the wire.
Kent State took a five-point lead, 38-33, less than two minutes into the second stanza, but Johnson made a pair of free throws and junior guard Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) knocked down a triple to pull NIU even with 15:44 left in the half.
Baker finished with five points, a career-best eight assists and two steals, which moved him into a tie with Darion “Jake” Anderson for ninth in career steals with 108.
NIU (7-6, 1-1 MAC) pushed the five-point burst to a 10-0 run on three points by junior wing Chuks Iroegbu (Elk Grove, Calif./Franklin/City College of San Francisco) and a pair of free throws by Threloff as the Huskies took a five point lead, 43-38, with 12:42 to play. A basket by Khaliq Spicer and a triple by Devareaux Manley pulled Kent State right back even, 43-43, just over a minute later.
With just under six minutes left, a layup by sophomore guard Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) gave NIU a four-point advantage, 58-54, but on the next possession Manley knocked down another three, one of his five on the night, and was fouled, converting the four-point play to even the contest, 58-58.
The lead then swung to the Golden Flashes on two more free throws by Manley. NIU and Kent State then traded points into the final minute with a layup by Johnson with 39 seconds to play tying the game again, 65-65.
Following a timeout, Kent State’s Kris Brewer was bumped driving to the basket, going to the free-throw line with 15 seconds left. Brewer made both from the charity stripe to push the Golden Flashes in front again, 67-65.
On the final possession, NIU had a runner in the lane come up just short and the Huskies were unable to get a second chance over the rim as the Golden Flashes hung on for the road win.
Manley led Kent State with 19 points; Jimmy Hall added 15 points and Brewer added 11 as the Golden Flashes improved to 10-5 on the season, 1-1 in league play.
Kent State shot 77.8 percent (21-of-27) from the free-throw line in the contest; the Golden Flashes came into the contest shooting just 59.5 percent from the line on the season.
NIU will return to action on Wednesday, Jan. 14, as the Huskies travel to Western New York as they face the Buffalo Bulls. Game time at Buffalo is slated for 6 p.m. CT and the contest will be shown live on ESPN3.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.