DeKALB – Scoring has been hard to come by for Northern Illinois all season.
In Wednesday night’s 56-52 loss against Ball State, the Huskies had to fight for points all game, and were forced to do it without much contribution from sophomore wing Abdel Nader, who had just five points.
The Huskies had a chance to tie the game with six seconds left, but Aksel Bolin’s three-pointer rimmed out, ending any hope NIU (5-18, 3-8 Mid-American Conference) had.
Nader went just 1 of 13 from the field, although his one field goal was a big one, a three-pointer with 26 seconds left.
Ball State (10-13, 4-7 MAC) coach Billy Taylor thought forward Chris Bond did a good job against Nader, and wanted his defense to make it tough on Nader and make him play in a crowd.
“Nader’s a terrific player. We have a lot of respect for him,” Taylor said. “He’s one of the toughest covers that we have in our league.”
Bolin, NIU’s second-leading scorer coming into the contest, had just three points. NIU coach Mark Montgomery said Nader just never found a rhythm offensively and got impatient at times. He also gave credit to Ball State’s defense, which played good help-side defense and clogged the lane.
“In a game like this, you’re best players have to perform well,” NIU head coach Mark Montgomery said. “It’s no surprise that Abdel Nader probably had his worst game and Aksel Bolin didn’t have a great game either. Those are our two biggest [offensive threats]. We just came up short.”
One bright spot for the Huskies was junior guard Antone Christian, who finished with 14 points, a season-high. His previous best was an 11-point effort at Seattle on Dec. 19. Christian shot 5 of 12 from the field and was 4-for-9 from three-point range.
“I just credit my teammates,” Christian said. “Whenever I got my spot they found me, and I was able to knock it down. The good thing about this team is it could be anybody’s night.”
NIU’s defense certainly did its job, especially in the second half when the Huskies held the Cardinals to 6 of 23 shooting. Ball State was just 1 of 12 from three-point range after halftime, and 4 of 22 for the game.
However, Ball State was able to knock down 15 of 19 second-half free throws, while the Huskies went 6 of 12 from the line in the second half.
“Credit Ball State, they made those free throws in the second half,” Montgomery said. “It’s hard to stomach as a coach when you hold a team to 26 percent [shooting], and they shoot eight percent behind the arc (after halftime) and you don’t come away with the win.”
NIU’s next game is Saturday at Western Michigan. The Broncos beat the Huskies, 71-34, on Jan. 19.