Make no mistake about it: Tuesday night's game between the Western Michigan Broncos and Northern Illinois Huskies was an ugly one. NIU won't apologize as it moves one step closer to hosting a first round game in the upcoming MAC tournament with a 65-63 victory over the Broncos.
Jordan Threloff came up with a huge block on WMU's Connar Tava with just seven seconds remaining in the game. Threloff hit one of two free throws on the other end to extend NIU's lead to three. The Huskies sealed the deal in what was a wild ending as NIU fouled Thomas Wilder who went on to miss the second of his two free throws. A scramble ensued as AJ Avery collected the offensive rebound and had a quick look at a tip in but was unable to convert. A last gasp three by Austin Richie proved fruitless and NIU capped off its recent domination of the MAC West's top three teams.
The loss proves painful for the Broncos as they entered the night with a chance to keep its hopes alive for a conference tournament bye that would send them straight to Cleveland. That possibility is eliminated as the brown and gold will have to settle for a third place finish in the MAC West and failure to reach the 20 win mark in the regular season.
Neither team shot particularly well from the free throw line. NIU shot 60.9 % on 14-23 shooting while WMU went 16-26. The charity stripe played a huge role in the second half. NIU attempted all of its 23 free throws in the second half to 19 for WMU. In fact, the Huskies didn't take long to get into the bonus - they accomplished that with over 14 minutes to play in the game. Neither team shot particularly well from behind the arc as a team - each team hit 5 - forcing each to find its production from the inside. NIU got that production from Threloff, going for 13 points and 7 boards while recording what proved to be the game winning block.
Defending MAC player of the week Aaron Armstead seemed to be held in check early - managing only 5 points in the first half - but exploded in the second half to finish with 17 points. Armstead was unstoppable down the stretch going 4-5 from behind the arc and proving to be too much for WMU to handle.
WMU's David Brown continued his cold shooting, going 5-11 from the field including 1-6 from three-point land. Austin Richie was held to just a single point and did not record a field goal in the contest.
WMU's Tucker Haymond missed his fourth straight game due to illness. He did not travel with the team. Despite being perfect from the free throw line in his previous time out, Thomas Wilder shot just 50% from the line Tuesday night. NIU is now on a three game winning streak that includes Toledo, Central Michigan and Western Michigan.
WMU concludes its regular season at home vs. Central Michigan on Friday while NIU travels to Muncie to take on Ball State trying to complete its late season sweep of the MAC West.
|Points||A. Armstead (17)||Two Tied (14)|
|Rebounds||Two Tied (7)||C. Tava (7)|
|Assists||T. Baker (5)||D. Brown (4)|
|Blocks||J. Threloff (2)||A. Avery (2)|
|Steals||T. Baker (2)||T. Wilder (2)|