DEKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team used a 9-2 run over the final 2:11 to claim a 77-70 victory over Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon (Jan. 15) at the NIU Convocation Center. The Huskies led for over 30 minutes, but the Eagles drew even late until a strong close gave NIU its second consecutive victory.

Keshawn Williams (Chicago Heights, Ill./Tulsa) scored a team-high 18 points and tied a team-high with five rebounds. Kaleb Thornton (Bolingbrook, Ill./Iowa Western CC) scored 15 points with four assists, Trendon Hankerson (Novi, Mich./Novi) added 12 points and a game-high five assists, Adong Makuoi (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada/Daytona State College) scored 11 points and Anthony Crump (Inkster, Mich./Middle Tennessee) chipped in 10 points.

It marked the first time NIU has had five double figure scorers in a game since Nov. 6, 2018, against Rockford.

“I’m really, really excited for our guys,” said NIU head coach Rashon Burno. “They were tested tonight, they understood the task with (Noah) Farrakhan being one of the best guards in the conference, a phenomenal scorer. Our guys were tested in the second half, they showed some fortitude and some grit, things that we talk about every day.

“The standard of the way we practiced in the last 72 hours coming out of the Kent State game really showed in the second half. We challenge our guys to be mentally locked in for 40 minutes and the last four minutes was a testament to what we preach every day.”

NIU (5-8, 2-1 MAC) held the lead the entire second half until Noah Farrakhan split a pair of free throws with 3:20 remaining to pull Eastern Michigan even at 68.

Following an empty possession for both teams, Thornton found Crump cutting to the basket for a dunk with 2:11 left, igniting a 7-0 Huskie run. An Eastern Michigan turnover led to a foul, and a technical foul, on the Eagles and NIU made three of the four free throws. Williams then added a bucket to make it 75-68 Huskies with 1:03 left.

Eastern Michigan (7-8, 2-2 MAC) scored to cut the lead to five, but the Huskies broke the Eagles trap and Hankerson made a layup to finish off the contest.

Farrakhan scored a game-high 27 points to pace Eastern Michigan, Darion Spottsville added 11 points.

NIU raced out to a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes of the contest as Hankerson netted the first five and Crump finished at the rim to push the Huskies to the early advantage.

An 8-1 burst for Eastern Michigan gave the Eagles a two-point lead, 12-10, with 12:30 left to play in the opening half. Zion Russell (Upper Marlboro, Md./National Christian Academy) answered with a difficult finish at the rim for the Huskies to bring NIU back even at 12.

With Eastern Michigan in front by a pair, 27-25, Williams made a bucket and Crump knocked in a trifecta to give the Huskies a 30-27 advantage with just over four minutes to play before the intermission.

After Eastern Michigan came back within one, NIU closed the half with a 9-3 burst to take a 39-32 lead into halftime. Makuoi scored the first four of the run for the Huskies, Williams beat the shot clock with a triple from the wing and Thornton converted at the rim off an Eagle turnover to help give the Huskies a seven-point advantage at the break.

Farrakhan led all scorers with 13 in the opening stanza for Eastern Michigan, Williams had 10 to pace the Huskies. NIU shot 48.5 percent (16-of-33) from the field in the first 20 minutes, including 5-of-10 from three-point range.

NIU scored the first three to start the second half as the Huskie lead grew to double figures. After EMU trimmed the Huskie advantage back to eight, Thornton converted an old-fashioned three-point play, putting NIU in front, 47-36, with 17 minutes left.

The Eagles responded with a 12-3 run of their own to cut the Huskies lead to just a pair, 50-48, with 12:42 to play.

An 8-3 answer from NIU pushed the Huskie lead to a half-dozen. Crump made a pair of free throws, Makuoi scored the next four and Thornton added two from the line as NIU led, 59-53, just past the halfway point of the second stanza.

Eastern Michigan scored the next four to cut the NIU advantage back to just two and the Huskies continued to hold a narrow lead until Farrakhan’s free throw with 3:20 left. NIU will back home on Tuesday night, Jan. 15, when the Huskies host Bowling Green. Tipoff against the Falcons is slated for 7 p.m.