NIU pulls big upset over Kent State


Sophomore Abdel Nader (#23) dribbles the ball in the game against Kent State on Jan 30. Nader would go on to score 26 points and the winning basket.

By Brian Earle

With the game tied, 65-65, in the final seconds of the game, sophomore wing Abdel Nader buried an 18-foot jumper with two seconds left to defeat Kent State, 67-65.

“As I’ve been taught from coaches…at the end of the game, give your best player the ball and see what happens,” said men’s basketball coach Mark Montgomery. “And Abdel Nader made a heck of a play…I’m proud of him.”

After falling to Eastern Michigan, 42-25, the Huskies (5-14, 3-4 MAC) bounced back with a strong shooting performance to take down the Golden Flashes (11-10, 2-5 MAC) in an exciting fashion.

The Huskies came out in the first half with a lot of energy and seemed to play with a chip on their shoulder after their last game, which Kent State coach Rob Senderoff expected.

“No, it doesn’t surprise me one bit,” Senderoff said. “They were embarrassed in their most recent game and, you know, when you’re embarrassed that’s how you’re supposed to respond and I knew Mark [Montgomery] would have them ready.”

NIU went 22 of 47 from the field while shooting 46 percent. From behind the arc, the Huskies shot even better, hitting seven of 13 shots, shooting 53 percent.

The Huskies were led offensively by Nader, who recorded his first career double-double, with a career-high-tying 26 points and 11 rebounds.

Defense played just as big a part in the Huskies’ win as the offense did. Coming into the game, the Huskies were focused on slowing down senior guard Randal Holt and forward Chris Evans.

They did just that, allowing Evans to score seven points and Holt to score nine. Evans averages 17.1 points per game while Holt averages 14 points per game.

“I thought Aksel [Bolin] started off on Evans, and Evans did get in a little early foul trouble, so that kind of hurt him, but Aksel was right there,” Montgomery said. “And Abdel started off on Holt, and with his size, sometimes it’s tough to shoot over someone 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6, but we kind of just stuck with them and our guys just played hard.”

With the win, the Huskies matched their season-win total from last season and are starting to see improvements.

“Well, I think our players are…starting to trust the system a little more,” Montgomery said. “I thought we had great flow on offense, where we’re sharing the ball; when we had player movement, they’re getting to spots faster. I think they’ve always bought into the defensive philosophy. If we’re going to be in games, we’re going to have to play defense and rebound.”