Jan. 5, 2009
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DEKALB - Freshman forward Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) scored a career-high 13 points and led a second-half comeback for the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (4-8), but the Huskies fell short, and dropped a 72-62 decision versus visiting Loyola University-Chicago at the Convocation Center Saturday.
Storm's 13 points were a team-high mark. Sophomore guard Michael Patton scored a season-high 12 points for the second-consecutive game, and sophomore center Sean Kowal added 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. The Ramblers were led by J.R. Blount's 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including a 10-for-12 effort from the free throw line.
The Ramblers scored 20 points off 19 Northern Illinois turnovers, and out-scored the Huskies on the fast break, 11-0.
"With an inexperienced team, it's tough to grind it out when you are running up hill all game. We've got to find a way not to do that," said head coach Ricardo Patton.
"The guys who have played less minutes brought us back - Tyler Storm, Lee Fisher, Bryan Hall and Kowal did a nice job. We have to count on our older guys and if they can't get it done, we'll put the young guys in there. The best motivator, I believe, is to sit a guy. We can't allow guys to stay on the floor for 30 minutes turning the ball over or allowing guys to take quick shots. That's almost like a turnover."
Both teams got off to cold starts from the field, missing a combined six shots in the first four minutes. At the initial media timeout (15:48), the Huskies owned a 7-4 advantage. After taking an 11-6 lead with 11:58 remaining, the Ramblers went on a commanding 12-4 run, and extended their advantage to 18-15 with 6:39 remaining in the first half.
Loyola pushed its lead to as many as six points twice down the stretch of the first half, and Leon Young's layup with 20 seconds remaining in the stanza gave the Ramblers a 30-25 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.
Loyola opened the second half on a 9-2 spree, and claimed its first double-digit advantage (39-27) with 16:16 remaining. After falling behind by as many as 15 points, the Huskies countered with a 13-5 run, and trimmed the deficit to just seven, 47-40, with 10:49 left. Michael Patton had two three-pointers in the stretch.
Storm drilled two free throws with 4:11 remaining to pull the Huskies back within one possession, 59-56. But NIU scored just two more points in the ensuing 3:43, and allowed the Ramblers to take an eight-point lead that they would not relinquish. The Huskies pulled within five points (67-62) with 29 seconds remaining, but could draw no closer.
NIU wraps up the scheduled non-conference portion of its season on a three-game losing streak, and has dropped five-of its last six games overall. The Huskies will head home for the holiday break, before returning to campus on Dec. 28. NIU's next game is Jan. 10, when the Huskies host Toledo in the Mid-American Conference opener.