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Huskies erase losing skid

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DeKALB – Northern Illinois didn’t make all of its free throws. It didn’t set any records for efficiency from the line and actually again shot about 20 percent worse than its opponent on freebies.

But an improved performance in a sore spot was enough for the Huskies to erase a six-game losing streak and defeat Akron, 83-79, on Sunday at the Convocation Center.

The Huskies went to the line 47 times, six more than their previous season-high, set only this past Tuesday against Kent State. This time, NIU (7-16, 3-8 MAC West) made sure it didn’t give away a late lead at the line like it did against the Golden Flashes by making 31 free throws, including 20 in the second half.

Sophomore guard Jake Anderson hit five straight free throws in the final minute to keep the Zips (16-9, 7-4 MAC East) from overcoming what was a 19-point NIU lead.

“I think in looking back at our film, we saw opportunities that we kind of squandered,” NIU coach Ricardo Patton said. “Today we came out and I thought that our guys really believed that if we didn’t shoot ourselves in the foot, if we weren’t our own worst enemies, then we’d have a chance to win the ballgame.”

Anderson said he tried to just focus on what he could do and tried not to let the free throw woes of the season enter his thoughts as he shot his late free throws.

“You can’t do nothing about the past,” Anderson said. “[I] just wanted to come and get the win in any way, shape or form.”

The Huskies built an early double digit lead by getting balanced scoring and shooting 55.6 percent from the field in the first half. Four NIU players finished in double figures, with Anderson leading the way with 24.

Patton said that his team’s defense, which finished with 14 steals, was the primary factor in the Huskies building a lead against an Akron team that entered Sunday on a seven-game win streak.

“I thought the first half we scored primarily off our defense,” Patton said. “It created offense for us.”

Akron came back largely on the strength of forward Brett McKnight, who scored 24 points and had 10 rebounds. McKnight’s inside jumper with 1:42 left tied the game at 75.

After that, Anderson stepped in and hit his free throws to give the lead, and ultimately the game, back to NIU.

“We didn’t make as many as we probably will in time, but we made enough to win the ballgame,” Patton said. “At least it wasn’t so glaring that we got to the line and came away empty. It was good to see.”

N. ILLINOIS 83, AKRON 79 AKRON (79) C.McKnight 3-7 2-4 8, Hitchens 3-5 3-3 10, Roberts 3-6 0-0 8,  Cvetinovic 1-5 2-2 4, Linhart 8-12 0-0 19, McClanahan 1-7 3-3 6,  McNees 0-4 0-0 0, Conyers 0-2 0-0 0, B.McKnight 10-20 4-4 24,  Bardo 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-69 14-16 79. N. ILLINOIS (7-16) Storm 4-6 3-4 13, Kowal 4-6 5-8 13, Anderson 6-12 11-15 24,  DiNunno 2-10 3-5 9, Fakuade 0-1 0-2 0, Dzepina 0-0 0-0 0,  Fisher 0-1 2-2 2, Patton 0-1 2-2 2, Ervin 1-1 0-1 2, Hall 2-2 1-4 5,  S.Smith 4-8 4-4 13. Totals 23-48 31-47 83. Akron    34    45    –    79 NIU    46    37    –    83 Three-point goals: Akron 7-22 (Linhart 3-4,  Roberts 2-4, Hitchens 1-2, McClanahan 1-4, C.McKnight 0-1, Conyers 0-1,  B.McKnight 0-3, McNees 0-3), N. Illinois 6-15 (Storm 2-4, DiNunno 2-6,  Anderson 1-2, S.Smith 1-3). Fouled Out: Linhart. Rebounds: Akron 35  (B.McKnight 10), N. Illinois 38 (Anderson 10). Assists: Akron 13 (Linhart  4), N. Illinois 12 (Anderson 6). Total Fouls: Akron 30, N. Illinois 17.  Attendance: 1,881.

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