Kent State mounted a furious second-half rally, tying the game on a 3-pointer in the last minute of regulation, en route to a 73-64 overtime win at Northern Illinois Wednesday night. It was the second game in a row featuring the Golden Flashes squaring off against a seemingly inferior opponent, and then staging a double-digit second half comeback for the win. With the win, the Golden Flashes move to 2-1 in the MAC, while the Huskies fall to 1-2.
Northern Illinois dominated the first 10 minutes of the contest. The Huskies hit 7 of their first 13 shots including both attempted 3-pointers, and out-rebounded Kent State 14-3 en route to a 22-11 lead halfway through the first half.
A conventional 3-point play from Khaliq Spicer fueled a Kent State run that whittled the lead to 25-23. Jackson, who led Kent State with 8 first half points, tied the game at 30 in the half's final minute with a long-range bomb.
A curious fact about Northern Illinois is that the team entered the season with two sets of brothers. The Armstead brothers, guards Aaric and Aaron, both had strong performances in tonight's game. Freshman Aaric led the Huskies with 9 first half points, including 5 of 7 made foul shots, and finished with a season-high 12. And Aaron's early second half scoring burst helped propel the Huskies to a 19-6 run out of halftime, putting them ahead 49-36. Junior Aaron, a transfer from Green Bay who sat out last year, finished with a team-leading 15 points and 10 rebounds,
Kent State rallied behind forced turnovers and scoring from the starting guards. Manley and Brewer each hit 3-pointers and forced the action, earning (and making) free throws while the Huskies struggled. As the lead evaporated, the Golden Flashes scored on 3 consecutive possessions, each following a Darrell Bowie turnover, as Kent State claimed a 54-52 lead with 5 minutes to play.
Each team missed scoring opportunities on their next possessions, but after a Huskies timeout, Aksel Bolin hit a 3-pointer to give the Huskies a 1-point lead, 55-54. Aaric Armstead added two foul shots for a 3-point Northern Illinois lead. Bolin and Brewer each made 1 of 2 foul shots as the lead remained at 3 into the last minute, when Manley canned a three to tie with 39 seconds remaining.
Kent State had the first possession of overtime. Chris Ortiz missed a 3-pointer but Flashes collected the rebound and Kris Brewer opened the overtime scoring. Northern Illinois failed to get off a shot and turned the ball over on its first two possessions. When Brewer again connected, this time from long range, the Golden Flashes had a 65-58 lead they would not relinquish.
In 2013, Northern Illinois beat Kent State in a tight game, ending a streak of 11 consecutive victories by the Golden Flashes in the series. Tonight's result represents a huge missed opportunity for the Huskies, though it again signals their potential to compete with quality MAC teams. For Kent State, it remains unclear if this is glass half-full (second big rally in a row, 2-1 in conference) or half-empty (barely squeezing out wins against NIU and Ball State, potentially two of the bottom 3 teams in conference).
In a schedule twist new to the league's 18-game, asymmetric scheduling, these two teams match up again in 2 weeks, and they might be glad to see each other. In the meantime, we'll learn a lot about the Golden Flashes as they travel to Buffalo and Toledo, separated by a home date with Western Michigan. The road is no easier for the Huskies, who host Ohio and Buffalo in DeKalb, sandwiched around a road trip to Toledo.