NIU blows late lead, loses in overtime to Kent State

DeKALB – Northern Illinois was poised to go over .500 for the first time in the Mark Montgomery era.

The Huskies led by as many as 13 points in the second half of Wednesday night’s game against Kent State.

However, the Golden Flashes showed why they’re one of the premier programs in the Mid-American Conference, while NIU still has some steps to take, as Kent State made a run at the end of the second half before winning 73-64 in overtime.

NIU (7-8, 1-2 MAC) looked to be on its way to its eighth win of the season, but Kent State (11-5, 2-1 MAC) guard Devareaux Manley had other ideas, hitting a 3-pointer to tie the game at 58 with 39 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Huskies had the chance to win, but didn’t take advantage. When NIU took the ball out, point guard Travon Baker waited too long to make a move to the hoop and the Huskies were dealt a shot-clock violation.

“We ran the same play in that Bowling Green game, where we wanted the high ball screen, and give Travon Baker the ball and maybe he can get to the basket, maybe he can shoot a pull-up or give another person a shot,” Montgomery said. “Unfortunately, I think they kind of doubled him, and he waited a little too long and just couldn’t turn the corner. It just didn’t work out this time.”

Kent State coach Rob Senderoff thought back to a similar situation in last season’s game between these two teams, when former Huskies wing Abdel Nader hit a jump shot in the final seconds to give NIU the win.

“We just wanted to stay in front of them, and make it as hard for them to get into the lane as we could,” Senderoff said. “I thought we did a good job. We put four guards out there, and I was really worried that if they got a shot up, that it would be tough for us to defensive rebound because we had four guards out there.”

Aaron Armstead led the Huskies with 15 points and added 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Baker finished with 13 points and Aaric Armstead had 12. Darrell Bowie and Aksel Bolin each had eight.

Senderoff was highly complimentary of NIU’s program, whose seven wins are two more than the Huskies had each of the past two years.

“Mark is doing a great job with his kids,” Senderoff said. “I know he’s had a number of injuries, and he’s got those guys playing very, very hard.”

NIU continues its string of four consecutive crossover games to open MAC play on Saturday, when the Huskies play Ohio at 7 p.m. at the Convocation Center.