Feb. 6, 2010
DEKALB - Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson led a spirited second-half comeback with a game-high 16 points, including 14 in the second stanza, but the Northern Illinois men's basketball team fell short in a 74-69 defeat at the hands of visiting Miami (Ohio) at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon.
The Huskies (8-14, 4-6 MAC) fell behind by 18 points (44-26) at halftime, after seeing the RedHawks shoot a blistering 10-for-13 from three-point range. But NIU battled back in the second half, tying the score at 57-57 with just over seven minutes remaining, officially erasing a game-high 21-point deficit.
The Huskies committed just nine turnovers, ripped down 22 offensive rebounds (out-rebounding the RedHawks 42-30 overall), and received 23 points from their bench. But Miami (10-13, 7-3 MAC) shot an efficient 49 percent from the field for the game, and had 15 assists on its 25 field goals.
Xavier Silas (13 points), Lee Fisher (11) and Michael Patton (10) joined Anderson in double figures, marking the second-straight game NIU has had four players post double-digit scoring outputs. The RedHawks were led by preseason First-Team All-MAC selection Kenny Hayes, who scored a game-high 22 points to lead a foursome in double figures.
"I'm just extremely proud of my guys," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "We were down 18 points at the half and to come back, battling the way we did ... When you did yourself such a big hole, it's hard. We gave up a three to Winbush late in the game, and that broke our backs.
"We've got to carry this over, and continue to play [with emotion]. We saw a team that's capable, our team, of playing some good basketball. They were bigger, but we played bigger, I thought. "
Silas picked up his second foul just 2:18 into the contest, and was sent to the bench. Miami hit four-of its first five three-pointers, and opened up a 17-10 with 13:54 remaining in the first half, forcing NIU into its first timeout.
Silas returned to the lineup at the 13:01 mark, and NIU went on an ensuing 7-0 run to tie the game at 17-17 - Michael Patton scored all of the Huskies' points during the spurt. Miami answered with an 8-0 run, including back-to-back three-pointers by Kenny Hayes and Allen Roberts, opening up a 25-17 lead with 9:43 remaining. Silas was pulled again at the ensuing media timeout, and sat for the rest of the half.
The RedHawks' lead reached 38-21 with 4:11 left in the first half, after a three-pointer by Kramer Soderberg. Miami finished the frame on a 6-5 run, and took a 44-26 lead into the locker room at halftime. The RedHawks were 10-13 from three-point range in the half, and three players scored in double figures, led by Ballard's 10 points on a flawless 4-for-4 effort from the field.
The Huskies opened the second half on an 8-0 run, and trimmed the deficit to just ten, 44-34, with 18:19 remaining. Miami went back up by 15 (49-34), before NIU drew back within 51-40 at the half's first media timeout (15:49).
Northern Illinois trimmed the deficit to single digits (55-47) with 11:17 remaining, and eventually 57-52 at the 8:48 mark. The Huskies tied the game at 57-57 after an ensuing 8-2 spree, capped off by Anderson's drive and finish.
But Miami went back up by five (64-59) with 5:47 remaining after Hayes scored three-straight points from the free throw line. He hit one-of-two from the charity stripe with 5:56 left, after Lee Fisher was called for a technical foul for hanging from the rim on a put-back dunk.
The Huskies pulled within two, 65-63, with 3:17 remaining after another dribble penetration layup by Anderson. After forcing Miami's Rodney Haddix into an ensuing missed three, NIU had a chance to tie with just less than three minutes left; but Silas' jumper fell short, and Julian Mavunga went 2-2 from the free throw line on the other end to push the RedHawks' lead to 67-63 with 2:27 remaining.
The shot of the day may have come from Miami's Nick Winbush with 1:58 remaining. With his team clinging to 67-65 lead, Winbush found a crease in NIU's zone defense at the top of the key, and hit a trey to stretch the lead to 70-65. The Huskies pulled back within one possession (71-68) with 1:02 remaining, but could draw no closer.
Northern Illinois will travel to Bowling, Green, Ohio to take on the Falcons next Wednesday (Feb. 10) beginning at 6 p.m. CST.