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DeKalb sees lead evaporate, loses to Morris

MORRIS – Morris rode a 35-17 rebounding advantage Friday to a 56-53 Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East boys basketball win over DeKalb.

“They’re, I think, more athletic and have more length than us,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said of the Barbs. “I thought Brock Kukman [14 rebounds] did a great job. It’s the key to the win. You don’t have a stop until you secure the rebound, and I thought we got rebounds in key spots.”

Evan Bjelland of Morris (15-3, 3-1) scored the first five points of the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer and a drive, elevating Morris into the lead for good after it had trailed, 40-38, to begin the fourth.

After Dre Brown scored for DeKalb, baskets by Sam Allen and Tanner Sampson made it 47-42, Morris.

DeKalb got a basket from Rudy Lopez Jr. at the 4:03 mark of the quarter, and did not score again until Jace Kitchen hit a 3-pointer with 1:36 to go. During that drought, Allen made 3 of 4 free throws and a field goal, and Bjelland added a foul shot.

A Luke Davis III basket got DeKalb (5-11, 0-3) within 3 points and, after Bjelland made 1 of 2, the Barbs got a rebound, but a traveling violation and a Bjelland basket all but ensured the outcome. DeKalb was 1 for 8 from 3-point range in the fourth.

“They missed some shots,” Blumberg said, “but we rebounded ... and I thought we closed out and didn’t allow them to take too many shots in rhythm.”

Morris’ Austin Patterson scored 12 of his game-high 15 points in the first half, which ended with Morris ahead, 28-26.

After a 3-3 start, the teams exchanged lengthy runs in the first quarter. DeKalb’s came first, with the Barbs scored 10 straight, including a three-point play from Kitchen and a 3-pointer from Ethan Conroy.

Morris countered by scoring the final seven points of the quarter on a Sampson basket, its first in 4:29, a Patterson 3-pointer and two Bjelland free throws. It then scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second quarter, with Patterson doing the bulk of the damage with a pair of 3-pointers.

A Bjelland 3 with 3:45 left in the second quarter gave Morris a 23-17 lead, which DeKalb chipped away at the rest of the half. Lopez Jr.’s 3-point play with six-tenths of a second left countered Patterson’s fourth 3-pointer, which had happened seconds earlier.

“We jumped out to an early 13-3 lead and we just acted like we didn’t know how to play with a lead. We didn’t rebound at all,” DeKalb coach Dave Rohlman said. “Our execution on offense was extremely poor this evening.” 

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