Huskies Come Up Just Short at Western Michigan

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- The Northern Illinois men’s basketball team gave Western Michigan all it could handle on Wednesday night before falling, 77-68, at University Arena. Senior forward Tim Toler (Indianapolis, Ind./Avon/Danville Area CC) led the way for the Huskies with 15 points on five three-point field goals.

Freshman wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) scored 14 points, all in the second half after playing just three minutes before the break due to foul trouble.

“It was one of those games that could have gone either way,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “You have to give Western Michigan credit; they made the plays down the stretch. I thought our guys were pretty resilient, we got down about 10 a couple of times and we made plays to get back in the game.”

After Western Michigan scored the first three points of the contest, NIU used a 6-0 burst to take a three-point edge early on. Sophomore guard Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker), freshman forward Kevin Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) and freshman guard Stian Berg (Baerum, Norway/Norges Toppidretts Gymnas) each had a basket to give the Huskies the early advantage.

The Broncos cut into the slim Huskie lead, but a pair of triples from the wing by Toler helped NIU maintain its advantage until a five-point spurt swung the lead to Western Michigan, 18-14, just before the midway point of the first half.

An elbow jumper by Berg knotted the game at 21, but the Broncos, the preseason MAC West favorite, answered with five-straight to lead, 26-21, with five minutes left in the first half.

Senior forward Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) pulled the Huskies within a pair on a short corner jumper with 26 seconds left in the first half, but Matt Stainbrook answered for Western Michigan just before the buzzer to give the Broncos a 34-30 lead at the intermission.

Hayden Hoerdemann led all scorers with 11 for Western Michigan in the opening 20 minutes; Toler led the Huskies with nine, all from behind the three-point arc. The Broncos shot 50 percent (11-of-22) from the field in the first half, while the Huskies went 44.8 percent (13-of-29) from the floor in the opening stanza. Western Michigan was 7-of-7 from the charity stripe in the first half while NIU did not attempt a first half free throw.

Western Michigan used an 8-2 run out of the intermission to take a 42-32 lead, forcing an NIU timeout. Out of the timeout, Nader slashed to the basket for a jam, cutting the Bronco lead to eight with 17:27 to play.

Nader kept the Huskies close early in the second half, scoring 10 points in the first seven minutes of the second stanza.

After a Nader bucket brought the Huskies within seven, Bolin cut the gap to five, 49-44, with a baseline drive for a dunk with 12:20 to play.

Following the dunk, Western Michigan used a 6-0 burst to take a 55-44 lead, but NIU responded with the next nine. Toler started the Huskie run with a triple, his fourth of the night, before freshman guard Marquavese Ford (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw), freshman guard Zach Miller (Chicago, Ill./Glenbard East) and freshman forward Keith Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) each made a pair of free throws to cut the Western Michigan lead to 55-53 with seven minutes remaining.

The Broncos lead climbed back to eight, 67-59, until Toler connected on another three, this time from the top of the key, to cut the lead to five with 3:27 left.

A pair of free throws by junior guard Tony Nixon (South Holland, Ill./Seton Academy) pulled the Huskies within three, 67-64, but Western Michigan answered with an 8-0 run to put the game out of reach, escaping with a nine-point win.

NIU outrebounded Western Michigan, the leading rebounding team in the conference, 33-27 in the contest. The Huskies shot 42.9 percent (24-of-56) for the game, while the Broncos countered with 49 percent (24-of-49) shooting.

Hoerdemann led all scorers with 18 points for Western Michigan. Nate Hutcheson added 17 and Stainbrook chipped in 16 for the Broncos.  

Northern Illinois will return home on Saturday, Jan. 14, when the Huskies host Central Michigan at 3:30 p.m. at the NIU Convocation Center. The contest will be the second game of a doubleheader with the NIU women hosting Toledo at 1 p.m.