DeKALB – Abdel Nader didn’t want to go to overtime.
With Northern Illinois tied with Kent State in the final seconds of Wednesday night’s men’s basketball game at the Convocation Center, the ball was in Nader’s hands. The Huskies’ sophomore wing was either going to give the Huskies the win, or the two teams would head to the extra period.
Nader took a pass from Travon Baker, and with about three seconds left, let go of a shot near the top of the key. The basket went through the net, and the Huskies escaped with a 67-65 win.
“I was just thinking, I really need to get a shot off,” Nader said. “I just noticed [the defender] was playing off me a little bit, so I just knew I could go to my step-back (jumper), and it worked.”
When asked if he was comfortable from the spot of the floor where he let go of the shot – to the right of the key and about 18 feet from the basket – Nader said he’s comfortable from any spot of the floor.
NIU coach Mark Montgomery jumped on the microphone and agreed, saying Nader isn’t afraid to take a shot from anywhere.
“I was going to see how he answered that. He’s not shy from any spot,” Montgomery said. “He can put his shot off from any spot.”
Nader had a season-high 26 points, which also tied his career high. On the final play, he waited until there were about seven seconds left to take the game-winning shot. Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said it wasn’t a surprise to see the rock in Nader’s hands.
“We figured he’d have the ball. He made a tough shot,” Senderoff said. “He deserves credit for making that shot. That’s not an easy shot. But he’s a good player, and he played very well tonight obviously.”
For NIU (5-14, 3-4 Mid-American Conference) it was a completely different game compared to Saturday’s disastrous 42-25 loss at Eastern Michigan.
The Huskies shot 46.8 percent from the field (22 of 47) Wednesday, compared to just 13 percent, an NCAA record in the shot clock era, on Saturday.
NIU was 7 of 13 (53.8 percent) from beyond the arc in Wednesday’s victory after shooting just 1 of 33 against the Eagles.
The Huskies were helped out by a strong start. NIU jumped out to an 11-3 lead and led 34-27 at halftime.
“What a difference from Saturday to Wednesday,” Montgomery said. “I loved how our players came out and responded from a tough game at Eastern. I thought the start really helped get us going.”
With the victory, the Huskies equal their number of wins from last season, and conference victories from 2011-13. NIU’s next game is Saturday at 3 p.m. against Toledo at the Convocation Center.