Timely plays from the Huskies’ upperclassmen and hot shooting throughout the game proved just enough to propel NIU past second-seeded Toledo, 80-76, and on to the Huskies’ first MAC tournament semifinals appearance since 2003.
NIU shot 56.4 percent (31 of 55) overall and 58.8 percent (10 of 17) on 3-point shots.
NIU (17-16) grabbed a 68-60 lead, only to see the Rockets tie the game back up after five quick points from Marreon Jackson of Toledo (25-7), and a Luke Knapke 3-pointer tied the game with 2:50 to go at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.
On the next Huskie possession, German made a 3-pointer, only to be answered by a Knapke jumper. German responded in turn with a runner in the lane, as NIU held a 73-70 lead with 1:39 left in regulation. German led all scorers with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 5 of 9 on shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
“Eugene German in the first half carried us. Levi Bradley, thank God he woke up in the second half,” NIU coach Mark Montgomery said. “Unbelievable game, but both teams played at a high level, hard-fought. Toledo has had one exceptional year, well coached. It’s a reason why they lead the country in a lot of different offensive categories.”
After an NIU defensive stop, Lacey James grabbed a Toledo miss and, after being fouled, sank his two free throws.
Levi Bradley and Dante Thorpe combined to shoot 5 of 6 on free throws to close the game. Thorpe scored 18 points, and Bradley scored 13, all in the second half.
The Huskies, after falling behind by seven in the early going of the first half, caught fire, only for Toledo to respond in turn. German and Thorpe scored NIU’s first 16 points as German raced to 18 first-half points to pace the Huskies. Austin Richie sank all three of his 3-point attempts, scoring nine points.
“Dante, he was wonderful tonight. ... I honestly feel like he should be on the all-defensive team,” German said. “He came out with a lot of energy. He got us going.”
Toledo had five players in double figures, led by 17 from Jackson.
“If you look at our scores, every game’s decided the last four, five minutes,” Montgomery said. “You’re right, we had a tough February where we lost some close games, but our conference is ranked [the] eighth-toughest conference in the country and you have some very good teams. Awfully tough to win on the road.”
Huskies slug way to win: NIU walloped two home runs and raced past St. Louis, 8-3, Thursday.
The Huskies (10-13) picked up homers from Katie Keller and Katie Lamich. Keller went 3 for 4 with a double, four runs scored and three RBIs to go with the homer. Anne Allen went 2 for 3 and scored two runs.
NIU plated three runs in the second and four runs in the third to race out a 7-1 lead.
Mackenzie Bryan picked up her sixth victory of the season, striking out seven and allowing six hits in a complete game.
PREP GIRLS TRACK AND FIELD
Barbs take third at DVC meet: DeKalb won five events, and the Barbs took third at the indoor DuPage Valley Conference indoor meet.
Winning events for the Barbs were Sydney Dumas, who took the 55 meter dash (7.40 seconds), Katherine Olsen in the 1,600 (5:04.83), the 4x200 relay unit of Brianna Barwick, Sydney Dumas, Michiah Kirkwood and Isabella Dlabal (time of 1:46.24, the 4x400), the 4x400 relay unit of Paige Walk, Olsen, Dlabal and Kirkwood in 4:11.58 and Maddie Overton, won the shot put (35 feet, 3 1/4 inches).
Brianna Barwick also set a new record with her second-place 55 meter hurdles time of 8.59 seconds.
LATE WEDNESDAY: PREP TRACK AND FIELD
Spartan boys win home meet: Outdistancing the field by nearly 30 points, the Sycamore boys track and field team claimed the Gary Egler Boys Invitational on Wednesday.
Winning events for the Spartans were Paul Ruetten in the 3,200 meters (10:39.44), Ethan Wunner in the 55-meter hurdles (8.36 seconds) and Bobby Mallin in the shot put (43 feet, 10 inches.