Big Plays Late Lift Huskies Past Eastern Michigan

By Published: 1/13/2018 9:27:16 PM Custom Tag

Courtesy: Northern Illinois Athletics

DEKALB, Ill. -- Leading by a pair with just under two minutes to play, the Northern Illinois University men's basketball team used a 9-2 run to close out a 62-55 victory over Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon at the NIU Convocation Center. Sophomore Eugene German (Gary, Ind./21st Century Charter) scored a game-high 26 points, including five three-pointers, junior Levi Bradley (Milwaukee, Wis./Pius XI) had 14 points and sophomore Justin Thomas (Indianapolis, Ind./Pike) chipped in 11 from off the bench.

"Both teams competed, it was back-and-forth in the first half," said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. "We made some huge three-point shots when we needed them … The energy to start the second half dictated how we played, I think we started with four-straight stops, we got out transition game started and built a lead.

"That zone is awfully tough, we didn't turn the ball over. We held (James) Thompson, if you want to say that, to 15 and 12. Lacey James played huge with nine and eight. Levi was steady, Eugene German made big plays and Justin Thomas made maybe the play of the game when he scored a layup, stole the inbounds and bought us another possession; but the timely threes won us the game."

The Huskies finished 7-of-21 from behind the three-point line, but went 6-of-13 (46.2 percent) from deep in the second half.

NIU (9-8, 2-2 MAC) trailed by six at the intermission but opened the second half on a 17-4 run to take a 44-37 lead with 12:47 left to play.

The Huskies raced out of the locker room with the first nine on a triple from German, an up-and-under from freshman Gairges Daow (Melbourne, Australia/Victory Rock Academy), a put-back from Bradley and a layup from German on the break off an Eastern Michigan turnover.

NIU outscored Eastern Michigan off turnovers, 18-10.

The Eagles scored the next four to slow the Huskie momentum, but NIU had the next five, five of which came from the free-throw line, as the Huskies took a seven-point advantage.

That lead was quickly trimmed back to just a pair as Eastern Michigan scored the next five, but Thomas quickly answered with a pair of baskets before forcing a turnover that led to an old-fashioned three-point play by Bradley to give NIU a 51-42 lead with 10:38 left.

Eastern Michigan (10-7, 1-3 MAC) had cut the NIU lead to five with just under seven minutes left when German hit the shot of the night, knocking down an off-balance corner trifecta with the shot clock expiring to push the lead back to eight, 57-49. A little more than a minute later, the Eagles were again within five when German canned another triple to again push the advantage to eight.

After EMU scored the next five to get within one possession, 60-57, it as Thomas' turn to knock down a big triple as he gave NIU a six-point lead with just over three minutes to play.

Four-straight free throws had Eastern Michigan within two as the clock ticked under two minutes, but German delivered with another three, giving NIU a 66-61 lead with 1:52 left. Eastern Michigan had one last push as a basket with just over a minute remaining brought the Eagles back within three, but a Bradley dialed long distance, EMU missed a layup and junior Lacey James (Grand Rapids, Mich./Rider) converted an old-fashioned three-point play with 17 seconds left to seal the victory.

James finished with nine points and a team-high eight rebounds.

Paul Jackson led Eastern Michigan with 19 points, James Thompson IV had 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds while Jordan Nobles added 11 points.

NIU led 6-5 in the early going before a 7-0 Eastern Michigan run pushed the Eagles in front, 12-6, with 12:42 to play in the opening half.

The Huskies erased an eight-point deficit with an 8-0 run as Bradley knocked down a pair of shots, Thomas made a pull-up jumper and junior Dante Thorpe (Washington, D.C/Trion College) had a breakaway dunk to bring NIU even at 16 with just over nine minutes to play in the opening half.

Thorpe finished with five points along with a career-high six assists.

Eastern Michigan used an 8-3 burst to go back in front by a pair until Thorpe pulled the Huskies back even with a floater with 3:52 left before the intermission. The Eagles scored the final six points of the half to take a 33-27 advantage into halftime.

NIU will be back on the road for the next two, beginning Tuesday night, Jan. 16 when the Huskies travel to Buffalo to face the Bulls who are unbeaten in conference play. NIU will be back home on Tuesday, Jan. 23, as they host Bowling Green.
Published: 1/13/2018 9:27:16 PM Custom Tag