Freshman wing Abdel Nader scored 16 points and junior guard Tony Nixon added 11, but the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team fell, 71-57, at Boise State on Saturday night.
Boise State made eight three-pointers in the second half and went 12-of-21 from the free-throw line in the contest, while NIU had just five attempts from the charity stripe in the game.
“At the start of the second half, they came out on fire,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “You have to give them credit for the way they started the second half. But our guys deserve credit too for fighting back and not giving up.”
With Boise State leading early, 6-2, Nixon and freshman guard Zach Miller each connected on a triple to give NIU a two-point advantage with 12:34 to play in the first half.
The Broncos regained the lead, 11-8, with a three 8:34 before the half as both teams struggled out of the gate offensively, NIU opening just 3-of-12 while Boise State started 4-of-19.
A basket by Nader pulled the Huskies back within one until a pair of buckets from the Broncos gave Boise State a 15-10 lead with just under five minutes to play before the half.
The lead grew to seven, but senior forward Tyler Storm hit a trifecta from the corner and Nixon made a scooping layup to bring the Huskies within a pair, but the Broncos scored the final eight points of the half to take a 27-17 lead into the break.
Nixon had five in the opening 20 minutes to lead NIU; Kenny Buckner led Boise State with six. The Broncos shot 34.5 percent (10-of-29) in the first half while the Huskies went 7-of-22 (31.8 percent) from the floor.
Boise State went to the charity stripe nine times in the first half, converting four of those opportunities. NIU did not shoot a free throw in the opening half.
“I thought we showed some poise,” said Montgomery. “We said we wanted to control the tempo of the game, Boise State came in averaging 90-some points at home and we were able to hold them to just 27 in the first half. The tempo was where we wanted it, unfortunately we just didn’t shoot a better percentage in the first half.”
The Broncos scored the first four points out of the intermission before senior forward Tim Toler answered with a three for NIU.
Boise State responded with back-to-back threes, taking a 37-20 lead with just under 16 minutes to play. Jeff Elorriaga made four triples in the game for the Broncos, all in the second half.
The Bronco lead grew to as much as 25, but NIU didn’t quit, outscoring Boise State 20-9 in the final six minutes. Nader scored 14 of his team-high 16 points after the intermission, going 7-of-12 from the floor. Freshman forward Keith Gray also added a six point burst during the late Huskie rally.
Northern Illinois shot 55.6 percent (15-of-27) from the floor in the second half, including 50 percent (7-of-14) from beyond the three-point arc. The Huskies out-rebounded the Broncos, 33-29.
Anthony Drmic led Boise State with 18 points in the contest.