NIU drops bomb on EIU for second-straight win

By Mike Morris

General George Patton would have been proud of the NIU men’s basketball team last night. Not only did the Huskies win the battle, they also won the war the NIU coaching staff had anticipated.

Antwon Harmon’s 15-foot jumper, with one second remaining, hit nothing but net as NIU (2-0) handed Eastern Illinois an 80-79 defeat Monday in front of 1,865 at Chick Evans Field House. This is the first time the Huskies have started with a 2-0 record since the 1972-73 season.

Harmon’s heroics capped a Huskie comeback that had begun seven minutes earlier with the Panthers in front by 10. Ron Tate’s 18-foot bomb from the left side gave Eastern its biggest lead of the night at 72-62 with 7:16 left.

After two Harmon free throws and a five-footer by EIU’s Jay Taylor, the Huskies went on an eight-point run that closed the gap to two with just over three minutes remaining. NIU co-captain Donnell Thomas keyed the Huskie comeback with three straight baskets, including a baseline drive to make the score 74-72 Eastern Illinois.

Two Taylor free throws put the Panthers’ back in front by four, but NIU was far from finished. After Harmon split a one-and-one, Donald Whiteside picked an Eastern player’s pocket in the lane and found Jo Jo Jackson for a fast-break layup. Jackson was fouled and hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and tie the score at 76-76 with 1:36 left.

Twenty seconds later, Taylor nailed a 9-foot turnaround, but Harmon answered at the other end with a clutch tip-in of Thomas’ missed jumper to keep the score deadlocked at 78.

Jackson fouled Taylor at the other end, and NIU called timeout to ice the Panthers’ guard with 42 ticks left on the clock. It must have worked, because Taylor missed the first free throw before hitting the second to put Eastern up just one and leave the door open for the Huskies.

NIU ran the clock down to 15 seconds and called another timeout to set up the last second play.

“We kind of had it set up to go to a two-man game with Donnell and with Stacy,” head coach Jim Rosborough said. But when Arrington got the ball on the left baseline, he found a hand in his face and Thomas double-teamed in the post.

“Donnell had two men on him,” Arrington said, “so Antwon came up, and I just hit him.”

Panther coach Rick Samuels said he was unhappy with the way his upperclassmen handled the pressure of a close game on the road.

“The thing I guess I’m disappointed about is that we’ve got a veteran team,” Samuels said. “We have guys who’ve been through the wars a little bit.

“(Northern) plays with a lot of enthusiasm, and they wouldn’t quit. We had a couple of chances during the second half to put them away and they kept fighting back and doing the things they needed to do to win.”

Whiteside scored 15 points and handed out seven assists, while running mate Arrington added 10 points and four assists.

Arrington and Jackson provided the defensive pressure that kept Taylor from single-handedly beating the Huskies. Taylor managed 30 points, but his eight turnovers were a direct result of NIU’s constant pressure.

“I thought Jo Jo and Stacy, who were on (Taylor) the whole time, really made him work hard,” Rosborough said.

“In many, many ways it may be as important and as big a win as I’ve been assiociated with. This win will do an awful lot for our confidence.”