Feb. 24, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - When the Huskies needed a field goal in the worst way Wednesday, they turned to their 1,000-point scorer. In a tie game, junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson came off a ball screen, drove to the basket and converted a go-ahead lay-up with 0.1 seconds remaining, lifting the Northern Illinois men's basketball team to a 67-65 win over visiting Central Michigan at the Convocation Center.
The win broke an eight-game losing streak to Central Michigan (13-14, 7-7 MAC) that dated back to the 2006-07 season. NIU (9-18, 5-9) erased an 18-point second-half deficit, its largest deficit overcome to win a game this season. The Huskies out-scored the Chippewas 36-16 in the paint, and recorded a decisive 34-21 rebounding advantage.
Anderson scored a game and season-high tying 23 points, going 10-for-17 from the field. Junior guard Xavier Silas scored 17 points, while junior center Sean Kowal posted his third double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Central Michigan was led by leading scorers Jordan Bitzer (20 points) and Robbie Harman (19), who combined for 39 points, including 30 in the first half on a torrid three-point shooting spree. The Chippewas shot a blistering 70.8 percent from the field in the first half, but just 23.8 percent in the second stanza, thanks in large part to NIU's pressure defense.
"It was a much needed win for us (tonight)," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "It was great to see players step up in the second half. I'd like to see us stop spotting teams leads and put two halves together with all of our players playing well.
"In a game like that, guys have to rise up, want it and go get it. You have to take things one possession at a time, get stops and make shots. They (CMU) shot 70 percent in the first half, but I bet if you go back to the film and look at what Bitzer did (in the first half), you'd see guys getting hands in his face.
"In the second half, we played good defense and we held those guys (Bitzer and Harman) to nine points. All the guys stepped up and played good defense in the second half."
The Huskies came out in a 1-3-1 defense, but Central Michigan effectively shot through the zone, converting seven-of their first nine attempts from the field, and raced out to a 19-13 lead at the second media timeout (11:28). The Huskies trimmed the deficit to just five (22-17) with 9:40 left, but the Chippewas answered with six-straight points to take go up by double-digits (28-17) with 7:41 remaining in the opening stanza.
After falling behind by as many as 12 points, NIU went on a quick 4-0 spurt to trim the deficit to eight (35-27) with just over two minutes left in the first half. CMU ended the stanza on a 9-4 run, including a 30-footer by Harman as time expired, to take a 15-point lead (44-29) into the locker room at halftime.
Bitzer and Harman combined for 30 points in the opening 20 minutes. NIU shot 52.2 percent from the field, but the Chippewas shot 70.8 percent (17-24), including an 11-14 combined effort for Bitzer and Harman.
The Huskies opened the second frame on a 15-5 run over the first 4:41, trimming the deficit to just five (49-44) with 15:19 remaining. A lay-up by CMU's Zach Saylor with 12:09 left pushed the Chippewas' lead back to eight, 56-48.
NIU answered with a 6-1 run, and pulled within 57-54 with 10:32 remaining, after a steal and dunk by Silas. The score remained as such until the 7:05 mark, when sophomore forward Lee Fisher split two free throws to pull the Huskies within two, 57-55. Sophomore point guard Bryan Hall's 2-for-2 effort from the charity stripe with 6:27 remaining tied the score, 57-57.
NIU claimed its first lead of the second half (59-58) with 4:42 left after Silas' fifth and final field goal. But Chris Kellerman of CMU drilled a three-pointer from the top of the key on the ensuing possession (4:14), pushing the Chippewas back in front, 61-59.
Anderson evened the score at 61-61 with 3:22 remaining, driving to the hole and converting a lay-up. Bitzer drilled two free throws with 3:02 left to extend the Chippewas' lead back to two (63-61), followed by a 1-for-2 effort by Silas at the free throw line to make the score 63-62, in favor of CMU, with 2:45 remaining.
After Kellerman hit two more free throws to put the Chippewas in front 65-62, NIU came up with two-straight defensive stops, before Anderson took over. After a turnover by Kellerman, Anderson called his own number, drove the lane on the left side, finished and drew the foul, tying the score at 65-65 with 1:29 left.
After Harman committed a personal foul, Silas missed a potential go-ahead jumper with 1:05 left, but Kowal corralled the offensive board, giving the Huskies an extra possession. Patton called timeout with 48 seconds remaining, and out of the break, Anderson missed an 18-footer from the top of the key. Kowal once again came away with the offensive rebound, this time in sliding fashion in front of the bench, with 24.9 seconds remaining.
After another timeout, NIU played for the last shot. As time wound down under 10 seconds, Anderson set up the screen from Fisher at the top of the key, drove the lane, and finished with just 0.1 seconds remaining. NIU called one more timeout to set up its defense, and eventually knocked the full-court pass away, sealing the one-point win.
Northern Illinois will look to complete the regular season sweep over Eastern Michigan Saturday (Feb. 27), when the Huskies travel to Ypsilanti, Mich., to take on the Eagles. Tip-off from the Convocation Center is set for 1 p.m. CST.