So close, so very, very close.
On Senior Night, Matt Kamieniecki and the Ball State Cardinals 7-22 (2-16) nearly ended their slide that goes all the way back to January 10 versus Central Michigan, but instead the Northern Illinois Huskies 14-15 (8-10) picked up a victory that will give them the tenth seed in the MAC tourney that begins on Monday.
No team lead by more than eight at any point and that was shown by the finishing minutes of the game.
After a golden opportunity to take the lead coming off a NIU turnover, the Cards turned the ball over and a foul on the ensuing breakaway took the Huskies' lead back up to three. Northern Illinois held a 51-48 lead when play took a break at the 3:47 mark.
Coming out of the timeout, NIU bumped their lead back up to five, before fouling Franko House who took the Huskies' advantage back down to three with 1:45 left. Both teams then quickly traded baskets bringing the score to 55-52 with 56.3 seconds left.
Immediately following the break, House was able steal the inbound pass and dish the ball to Zavier Turner, who put up a three that went in and out, giving the basketball back to Northern, and leading to Travon Baker sinking one of two free throws to make it a two possession game.
Bo Calhoun would make a pair of free throws on BSU's next possession with 25 seconds left to cut the NIU lead down to two, before another foul on Baker lead to another split of the freebies by the Northern Illinois' forward setting up a three-point game with just 11 seconds left.
Straight out of the timeout, the Cards went to their star freshman Sean Sellers who sank a triple and tied the game at 57.
The momentum from Sellers' clutch shot carried into overtime, as Kamieniecki made a layup on the first possession, followed by a jumper by House to extend the Cards' lead to three. NIU, however, would respond quickly and tie the game at 61.
Both teams traded scores, before NIU would sink a three with a minute and a half left and take a 66-63 lead, and even after two Ball State offensive rebounds, Baker and the Huskies would hold that lead and finish off the Cardinals for MAC win number eight.
For the Cards, things started out well. BSU took advantage of the poor shooting from either side in order to take an early eight point lead in the first half. But then the Huskies heated up in the half's final few minutes and were able to cut the lead down to 22-20 at the break.
Both teams shot much more efficiently in the second half, with the Cards' lead vacuumed away early on in the last half. Northern would spend the next few minutes slowly expanding their lead to five.
But the Cards weren't done, and we're able to keep within striking distance coming out of the eight minute TV timeout. A Sean Sellers three and a three-point play by Kamieniecki cut the NIU lead of once six back down to two. After a failed possession by the Huskies, BSU forward Franco sank one of two free throws to cut the lead to just one.
To begin the MAC tournament, 12th-seeded Ball State will play fifth-seeded Bowling Green on Monday, while the ninth-seeded Huskies will play eighth-seeded Eastern Michigan on the same night.
|Player||Ball State||Northern Illinois|
|Points||M. Kamieniecki (21)||A. Johnson (18)|
|Rebounds||S. Sellers (7)||J. Threloff (9)|
|Assists||J. Davis (5)||T. Baker (3)|
|Blocks||B. Calhoun & F. House (2)||None (0)|
|Steals||F. Kiapway & J. Davis (1)||A. Armstead (2)|