Nov. 22, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. - Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson posted his fifth-career double-double with a game-high 23 points and career-high tying 13 rebounds, but the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (1-3) shot just 36.8 percent from the field, 24 percent in the first half, and its struggles from the free throw line (50 percent) continued in a 70-64 overtime loss to Southeast Missouri (1-2) at the Convocation Center Sunday afternoon.
Anderson was battling the flu, but still converted a season-high seven field goals (7-16), and ripped down double-digit rebounds for the second-straight game. Junior center Sean Kowal finished one rebound short of a double-double, scoring 14 points (7-17) to go along with nine rebounds. Southeast Missouri was led by Derek Thompson's 19 points off the bench, and Lamont Russell added 16 rebounds, helping the Redhawks record a 42-34 advantage on the boards.
"This was a very disappointing loss," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "I was proud of the way we fought back. We played from behind most of the night, and just didn't have enough to finish the game, and take the lead in the end.
"The free throw problem is unbelievable. I am as confused as anybody else about our inability to step up and make free throws. It's a mystery at this point. I think this team has the capability of being a good free throw shooting team. We've got to get into the minds of these young men and figure out what is going on."
NIU converted just 6-of-25 field goals in the first half (.240), before hitting 13-of-24 attempts (.542) in the second frame. The Huskies committed a season-low 11 turnovers, but went 17-of-34 from the free throw line - NIU has not shot above 50 percent from the charity stripe this season. SEMO shot 48.1 percent (25-52) from the field, and was 3-for-4 on field goals during the overtime session.
Both teams started out sluggish, but the Huskies claimed a 12-4 lead at the 13:27 mark after Michael Patton's
first three-pointer. SEMO clawed back, eventually claiming an 18-17 lead with 6:54 remaining after a Cameron Butler drive and layup. NIU never led again in the half, falling behind by as many as 10 points. Anderson and Mike DiNunno
combined for three free throws in the final 57 seconds of the opening stanza to help the Huskies pull within seven, 30-23, heading into the locker room at halftime.
The Redhawks claimed the largest lead of 12 points (35-23) just 1:21 into the second half, but NIU responded with a 14-5 run, and cut the lead to just three (40-37) with 12:51 remaining - Anderson had seven points in the stretch.
The Huskies claimed their first lead of the second half (41-40) at the 10:53 mark, after Bryan Hall attacked the rim in transition and converted his second field goal. After SEMO's Sam Pearson answered with an ensuing layup to put the Redhawks back in front (42-41), Hall scored again, giving NIU the 43-42 lead.
SEMO regained a lead it would not relinquish during regulation with 9:03 remaining - KaJuan Watson missed a runner in the lane, grabbed his own offensive rebound and finished off the glass to make the score 44-43. Pearson hit another jumper 90 seconds later, and pushed the Redhawks' lead back to two possessions, 48-43.
NIU tied the game at 53-53 with 2:48 remaining after Kowal's sixth field goal, but SEMO answered with a 4-1 run, and held a 57-54 lead with just 12 seconds remaining. The Huskies regained possession, called timeout, and drew up a potential game-tying play.
Kowal received the ball in the post, and kicked it back out to the perimeter where freshman Tony Nixon was the final recipient on the right side, about 18 inches behind the three-point line. After a shot fake, he drilled the shot with just 0.7 seconds left, tying the game, and forcing overtime.
The Huskies scored first in the overtime session, when Kowal converted in the paint on the first possession. SEMO came back with five-straight points to claim a 62-59 lead with 2:42 left. DiNunno hit back-to-back free throws with 2:29 remaining, but NIU could draw no closer, which secured the six-point defeat.
Northern Illinois will be idle for the next five days before traveling to Cedar Falls, Iowa, to take on Northern Iowa on Saturday, Nov. 28. Tip-off from the McCleod Center is set for 7:05 p.m. CST.