KENT, OHIO – The Northern Illinois Huskies rallied from a 13-point deficit early in the second half to force overtime, then dominated the extra five minutes to defeat the Kent State Golden Flashes 74-70 Tuesday night at the MAC Center.
Northern Illinois (10-6, 2-1 MAC) picked up its first conference road win of the season after a heartbreaking loss at Miami to open the schedule. In addition, the victory was NIU’s fifth in the last six games.
“I told our players . . .
Senior Marin Maric led four Huskies in double figures with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore Laytwan Porter and freshman Eugene German each scored 12 off the bench, while sophomore Jalen Key added 11.
Kent State (9-6, 1-1) suffered its second straight MAC loss and fourth in the last five games while absorbing just its second loss at home so far this season.
“We are struggling in a lot of ways, and we have to find a way to get ourselves out of it.” KSU head man Rob Senderoff said. “Too many turnovers and too many rebounds, especially offensive rebounds, did us in tonight.”
Sophomore Jaylin Walker led all scorers in the contest with 22 points going 6-of-10 from three-point range. Senior Deon Edwin added 18 with five rebounds, four assists, and a steal.
KSU started well, hitting four of its first seven shots to open a 13-5 lead at the 15:29 mark on a three-pointer from the left arc by freshman Danny Pippen.
The home team would hold the lead for the remainder of the first half. KSU built an 11-point advantage, 30-19, at the :40 mark on a three by Jaylin Walker, who scored 17 points in the opening stanza.
The Huskies had their problems shooting from the field, going just 7-of-29 from the floor. What kept them in the game was 9-of-13 from the free throw line, closing the deficit down to nine 30-21 on two free throws by Key. At intermission, it was the Flashes on top by 12 points, 36-24.
KSU opened their largest lead of the game at 13 points, 44-31, when Edwin connected on a three from the left arc.
From that point on, the momentum shifted to the Huskies. NIU chipped away again at its deficit, using a 12-2 run to close to within three, 46-43, at the 12:24 mark when German hit a three from the left arc He would score 10 points in the second half.
KSU pushed the lead back out to eight on two occasions the last being 60-52 on a pair of free throws by senior Jimmy Hall. However, the Huskies finally caught the Flashes as they used their second run of the half. Porter, who scored 11 of his points in the second half and overtime, scored on a driving layup to cap the 10-2 spurt.
When asked about the contributions of both Porter and German, Montgomery said “I thought both of them gave us a boost.”
The game was tied at the end of regulation, 64-64, although NIU had a chance to win it with 23 seconds remaining. Maric was fouled, but he missed both free throws.
In the extra five minutes, a pair of free throws by sophomore Levi Bradley gave the Huskies their first lead at 66-64. They would not relinquish that advantage building a three-point lead when Porter scored on a layup off the glass with 46.5 seconds remaining.
KSU got to within a single point 71-70 on a tip-in by sophomore Adonis De La Rosa. But three free throws (two by Bradley and one by Key) insured victory for the visitors. It was the fourth consecutive game and fifth in the last six of the series that was decided by four points or less.
► One key to NIU’s victory was an 18-of-38 shooting performance in the second half and overtime. Still, they finished the game at just 37.3% (25-of-67). The second key was in the rebounding as they domninated the glass over the final 25 minutes with a 24-16 margin overall and 11-5 on the offensive end, eventually winning the battle of the boards, 44-35.
► It was a “choppy” game for a couple reasons; fouls and turnovers. There were a total of 45 total fouls called and 41 total turnovers (23 committed by Kent State, leading to 27 Huskies points).
► Two of the MAC’s better scorers failed to reach double figures Tuesday for one reason or another. NIU senior Aaric Armstead, who came into the game averaging 10,6 points per contest, was held to just three points but led the Huskies with 12 rebounds.
Kent State’s Hall, meanwhile, did not start the game, coming off the bench early in the first half. He finished with seven points and five rebounds before fouling out in overtime. When asked about non-start, Senderoff said it was an internal matter between the coach and the player and left it at that.
Both teams are back in action on Saturday, with NIU traveling to Bowling Green while KSU heads to Western Michigan.