Doing just enough to hang on, the Northern Illinois men's basketball team lost a double-digit lead, only for a few plays to make the difference in a history-making 73-72 road win at Buffalo Saturday.
Eugene German reached 1,859 career points, passing Donnell Thomas (1,853) for second in program history in scoring and trails only T.J. Lux (1,996) in Huskies history, scoring 26 points, and shooting 10 of 17, 5 for 8 from beyond the 3-point arc, in the win.
After Jayvon Graves missed a running shot with 33.5 seconds to go in regulation, Noah McCarty grabbed the rebound. McCarty got the ball to German, but it was immediately stolen by Graves right under the basket. Graves was fouled, stepped to the line and made two free throws for a one-point Bulls lead, 72-71.
On the other end, Trendon Hankerson drove and earned a foul with 20.2 seconds left, and sank both free throws to put NIU back on top.
The Huskies forced a Davonta Jordan miss on a floater, and Noah McCarty grabbed the rebound with 2 seconds remaining to help preserve the win.
Jordan made bigtime plays on consecutive possessions late to get Buffalo close, spinning into the lane and finishing for a layup and assisting a Josh Mballa for a dunk as the Bulls cut their deficit down to 69-66 with 2:06 left in the gane.
Graves made two free throws to cap a 9-0 Buffalo run, but right out of the ensuing full-court press, Gairges Daow hit Lacey James for a dunk as NIU went back up three.
“We haven’t gotten pressed much," Montgomery said. "It bothered us. And your players have got to make plays.”
Lacey James knocked down an open 3-pointer for a 60-48 Huskies advantage with 9:21 left, and later knocked down another triple for a 65-54 advantage as NIU fought to keep its lead around double figures. Of James', 18 points, 16 came in the second half. He also grabbed 13 rebounds.
“He made some big three’s when they were making runs," Montgomery said. "He made some big free throws.”
NIU's lead reached as high as 11, 41-30 in the first half, and the Huskies led 41-32 at the halftime break.
Noah McCarty scored seven points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Huskies in the win.