NIU sees 20-point halftime lead evaporate in opening loss to UIC

Local Sports

DEKALB, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) – UIC finished on a 13-1 run to edge the Northern Illinois University Huskies, 65-61, on Wednesday night at the NIU Convocation Center in the season opener for both teams. The Flames made 11 three-pointers, including seven in the second half, and shot 56.7 percent (17-of-30) from the field, 43.8 percent (7-of-16) from three in the second stanza.

Junior Darius Beane (Carbondale, Ill./Southern Illinois) and sophomore Tyler Cochran (Bolingbrook, Ill./Bolingbrook) led the Huskies with 13 points, junior Trendon Hankerson (Novi, Mich./Novi) added 10 points.

NIU had bolted out to a 20-point 38-18 lead at halftime only to go cold in the early minutes of the second half and let the Flames back into the game.

“It was a tale of two halves,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “I thought we played our best basketball in the first half, especially on the defensive end, we held them to 23 percent, from both the two and the three. I thought we got out in transition, I thought we shared the ball, we had a better offensive flow.

“Unfortunately it’s a 40-minute game, we took our foot off the pedal, UIC made some plays, we had some breakdowns, we just didn’t flow as well in the second half.”

NIU (0-1) led 54-36 with less than nine minutes to play after an old-fashioned three-point play from Beane, but UIC responded with a 14-2 run to pull within six, 56-50, with 4:31 left.

Beane scored the next four for the Huskies, sandwiched around a basket by UIC, as NIU led 60-52 with under four minutes remaining until three consecutive triples gave UIC a one-point lead, 61-60, with 16 seconds left.

After a Huskie turnover, UIC made a pair of free throws to extend its lead and closed out the game from the line.

Both team shot nearly identical percentages from the field as NIU finished at 40.4 percent (23-of-57) and UIC finished at 40 percent (24-of-60), but the Flames connected on 11 triples from just three for NIU.

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