A halfcourt buzzer-beater would not be in the cards for NIU men's basketball last night at the end of regulation.
The Huskies (0-2) dropped their season opener as well as Mark Montgomery's coaching debut to Milwaukee, 59-57 at the Convocation Center.With five seconds left, Zach Miller hit a three-pointer to bring the Huskies to within one and to keep them alive, 58-57.
NIU immediately fouled junior Paris Gulley to send him to the line for two free throws. Gulley made the first to make the score 59-57, but missed the second.
NIU's redshirt sophomore Antone Christian grabbed the rebound, dribbled down the left side of the floor and put up a shot at halfcourt all to no avail, as it bounced off the backboard. It was a tale of two halves for NIU, at it committed 16 turnovers and shot 37 percent from the field in the first half.
"We just couldn't get the ball to fall in the first half, and we turned it over," Montgomery said. "And in the second half, you kind of saw that our guys had a no quit attitude, came back and battled and actually look the lead."
At half-time, the Huskies trailed the Panthers 35-23 after freshman Zach Miller hit a two point shot at the buzzer. NIU made a lot of adjustments at half time and came out aggressive, wanting to get the ball into the post.
"Coach always preaches to get post touches," said NIU senior Tim Toler. "And to basically keep the defense honest and free up our shooters. Getting it down there, I think it created more of a flow so guys can move and spacing was a lot better in the second half. So as far as that goes, we're going to continue to get it in the post."
From the 20 minute mark to the 11:01 mark, the Huskies went on a 17-4 run to take the lead on a two point jump shot by Toler, who finished the game as the leading scorer with 11 points.
"The first five minutes is always critical for any game, and our first five minutes, we might of scored two points," said Rob Jeter, Milwaukee's head basketball coach. "That means that they're having a chance to chip away at the lead, which they did. We didn't start the half particularly well which allowed them to get back into it."
The Panthers took the lead for good at the 9:56 mark with the score at 43-42 on a lay up by sophomore Kyle Kelm, who 40 seconds later would hit a three-pointer to give the Panthers a little more breathing room at 46-42. NIU was able to bring the lead to within one point at the 6:43 mark, when sophomore Aksel Bolin split a pair of free throws at the line.
Milwaukee was able to increase its lead to six with 3:57 left when junior James Haarsma hit a three-pointer. Haarsma was the leading scorer in the game with 15 points.