Lacey James' effort on the offensive glass sparked the Huskies to victory as NIU emerged with an 89-86 win at Central Michigan Tuesday.
After CMU (20-10 overall, 9-8 MAC) cut its deficit to one with two free throws, Eugene German answered with two made free throws of his own to extend NIU's lead back to three with 4.4 seconds left in the game. Again, the Chippewas sank two free throws with 4.2 seconds to go, but Levi Bradley answered again with two more free throws with 3.7 seconds left to leave the game at its final score.
NIU (14-16, 7-10) led by as much as nine with 2:14 to go after two Bradley free throws, before the Chippewas stormed back, thanks namely to Larry Austin Jr, who scored 19 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and tallied eight assists.
With the Chippewas playing without starting forward Rob Montgomery due to a recently-sustained groin injury, James bullied his way to 16 points and a career-high 19 rebounds, 11 of them offensive in front of a crowd in his home state of Michigan. James also set a new personal best with eight field goals made.
NIU's 26 second-chance points came largely thanks to 18 offensive rebounds.
Levi Bradley, who led all scorers with 26 points, put the Huskies ahead with a bucket in the lane with 9:35 remaining, appropriately on an offensive rebound and putback. Bradley finished 13 of 14 on free throws and the Huskies never trailed again despite CMU's frantic effort.
Eugene German scored 19 points, while Dante Thorpe and James added 16 points apiece.
The Chippewas raced ahead by eight points early in the second half, as CMU buried 3-pointer after 3-pointer before NIU raced back to tie the game 49-49. Central Michigan started 12 of 19 on 3-point attempts, but missed its last eight shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
After falling behind six late in the first half, NIU used a 10-0 run to take a four-point lead, but ultimately trailed 40-37 at half.
CMU's Shawn Roundtree led the Chippewas with 23 points.
Trendon Hankerson's six points are his most since he scored nine in the Jan. 5 MAC opener against Ohio.
MAC wrestling expanding: The Mid-American Conference announced the addition of seven affiliate members set to join the conference for wrestling for the 2019-2020 season.
Affiliate members Bloomsburg, Clarion, Edinboro, Lock Haven, Rider, George Mason and Cleveland State will join from the Eastern Wrestling League (EWL).
The league currently consists of NIU, Buffalo, Central Michigan, Kent State, Missouri, Ohio, Old Dominion and SIU-Edwardsville.
“I am pleased to welcome our new additions to the Mid-American Conference that have strong traditions in the sport of wrestling. Our membership spent significant time discussing and studying the possible inclusion of these new members and we believe this will strengthen what has already grown into an elite wrestling league,” said Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. “This addition of affiliate members is good for the Mid-American Conference, and good for collegiate wrestling. It broadens our footprint across a part of the country where youth, high school, and collegiate wrestling is very strong. I look forward to the 2019-20 season when our new and enhanced membership begins competition.”