Huskies win on Senior Night

By Jerry Burnes

Add Marquavese Ford to Toledo’s wanted list.

With 7.8 seconds left on the clock and the Huskies up three, the freshman guard stole an inbound pass and a 65-61 victory from the Rockets Wednesday night at the NIU Convocation Center.

“He was jogging up the court like he didn’t even want to get the ball,” Ford said of the final play. “So I just anticipated and everything worked out…It was a big relief.”

Ford was fouled after the thievery and hit one free-throw to extend the game to a two-possession lead with just over two seconds left.

The loss snapped Toledo’s four game winning streak and sent the Huskies out winners on senior night.

“It’s the best feeling ever, I can’t really describe it,” said senior forward Tyler Storm. “The team decided they were going to get this win for the seniors.”

Abdel Nader paced NIU (4-24 overall, 3-12 MAC) with 12 points, followed by Askel Bolin’s 10 points and eight rebounds. The Rockets (15-15, 6-9) had three players in double-digit scoring, led by Dominique Buckley (16), Julius Brown (12) and Curtis Dennis (11).

Toledo led by as much as 12 in the first half but was erased by a 3-point barrage late in the half, with Stian Berg going 3-for-3 from behind the line, leading the Huskies with nine points at the break.

“They got ahead of us and we came back, took the lead at halftime,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “I was proud…It all came together today.”

A back-and-forth battle ensued for the first part of the second half before the Rockets gained an eight-point edge with 7:27 to play. That lead was whittled down to two less by 5:52 remaining and the Huskies retook a 62-61 lead with 3:32 left.

Keith Gray made a lay-up to tie it up at 61-61 and hit the ensuing foul shot. Gray finished with eight points, going 4-for-5 from the free-throw line.

With a one-point lead in hand, the Huskies didn’t look back. Gray would add another bucket and the defense remained strong to seal the win.

For the game, NIU won the battle on the boards, out rebounding Toledo 31-25. Always a downfall of the Huskies, they shot 16-of-19 (84.2 percent) from the free-throw line.

The win marks the Huskies’ second in the their last seven after starting the season 0-11, including a 96-34 loss to Purdue to open the season.

“I joke around and tell the guys everyday that from where we started, where we came from, we’re probably on a different continent,” Montgomery said. “What they did was learn how to compete, play with teammates and work hard.”

NIU concludes the regular season Saturday at Ball State, with tipoff scheduled for 1 p.m.