DeKALB – Northern Illinois looked like it might make Saturday’s game against Dartmouth easy on itself after 21 consecutive points late in the first half put them up by 14.
But this year’s Huskies don’t do easy.
After Dartmouth came charging back to take a late lead, NIU needed four points apiece from sophomore Darrell Bowie and junior Jordan Threloff to close out the game, which it won, 64-57. Four of the Huskies’ six games coming in had been decided by five points or less, and Tuesday’s game would have hit that mark if Threloff hadn’t hit two free throws as time expired.
“When we’re in the Convocation Center, it seems like every game is decided in the last few seconds,” NIU coach Mark Montgomery said. “I thought we played an unbelievable first half … I thought our guys reached down and made some unbelievable plays down the stretch.”
The Huskies (3-4) came out flat early, falling behind 21-14 in the first 10 minutes, shooting just 4 of 11.
But a Threloff layup with 9:47 left in the half kick-started a huge run that lasted almost the remainder of the half.
“I thought our defense picked up,” Montgomery said. “We started getting good stops and then we had clean rebounds, then we had a chance to get out in transition. We’re a good transition team.”
J.J. Cravatta scored all eight of his points, including two three-pointers, during the run, and the Huskies went into halftime with a 35-24 lead. Cravatta was one of four NIU players to score at least eight points, and three more scored at least five.
“You’ve got to give credit to J.J. Cravatta, he came in off the bench and gave us a spark, hit some threes and got to the foul line,” said Bowie, who scored a team-high 12 points. “Just the little things added up for him, and that’s what we need off the bench.”
NIU led 40-30 with 16:38 remaining, but the Huskies committed seven turnovers over the next 12 minutes, and Dartmouth (3-2) chipped away until it took a 54-52 lead with 4:31 left.
Threloff scored 10 and grabbed seven rebounds to go with fellow center Pete Rakocevic’s 10, and the DeKalb native gave the Huskies a 60-57 lead with 33 seconds left before Darrell Bowie scored on a putback off of a missed free throw to seal it.
Just a few days after losing to Nebraska, 63-58, in a game that came down to the wire, the Huskies were able to close out their third win of the season. The young Huskies will have played three games in about four weeks before they play Massachusetts on December 14, when they have a chance to get to .500 for the first time in Montgomery’s three years at NIU. They won’t play another home game for the rest of December.
“We got a lot of good minutes out of a lot of different guys,” Montgomery said. “We’re trying to clean everything up on the offensive end. We’ve been shooting a lot of free throws … We’re just trying to work on the little things.”