Broncos Shock Huskies, Come Back For Win
Shayne Whittington led the Broncos in scoring with 15 points, including a 9-of-9 performance from the free throw line. Connar Tava, making his first career start, had 12 points and eight rebounds, both career-highs, while also notching two steals. Austin Richie had double-digits in points for the second straight game, notching 11 points (including the go-ahead basket), and David Brown finished with 10 points off the bench.
The Broncos trailed 58-50 with 4:01 remaining in the game, but embarked on what can only be described as a furious rally to close the proceedings and shock the Huskies, who had led from the 15:38 mark of the first half. Tava took a post feed from Whittington at the 3:38 mark to cut the lead to six points; on the next possession, Brown drained a three-pointer from deep in the right corner to cut the NIU lead to 58-55 with 2:24 remaining.
Brown wasn't finished, however. He swiped the ball from Darrell Bowie at halfcourt on the Huskies' next possession and sprinted the down the court, laying the ball in for a fast break lay-up to make it just a one-point game. The 3,569 fans in attendance now in full throat, Bowie stepped over the baseline on the inbounds play, giving possession back to the Broncos. Richie put the Broncos ahead for good with a three-point bomb from the right wing, bringing the house to its feet as the Broncos took a 60-58 lead with 1:29 to play.
Brown made it a two-possession game with a lay-up with 38 seconds remaining in the game, and Richie and Whittington each made a pair of free throws down the stretch to put the game out of reach and give the Broncos the improbable victory.
The Broncos opened the game on a 7-2 run, with Brandon Pokley making the first two shots of the game for the Broncos and Nate Hutcheson capping the run with an old-fashioned three-point play, making a lay-up while drawing contact from Kevin Gray in the process; Hutcheson swished the free throw to make it 7-2. The Huskies responded with a 10-0 run of their own, taking a 12-7 lead, but the Broncos stopped the bleeding when Jared Klein found A.J. Avery sprinting down the floor on the fast break. Avery took the lead pass from his freshman classmate and laid it in, cutting the Huskies' lead to just three points. David Brown further cut into the lead, draining a three-pointer from the right side to make it 14-12 with 11:09 left in the half.
The Huskies continued to control the tempo on the offensive end of the floor, but the Broncos never let them get far beyond arm's reach. Austin Richie drained a three-pointer from the right win to pull the Broncos to within 23-18, and Hutcheson took a lob pass on an inbounds and lifted a hook shot in the late to make it 23-20. The Huskies countered with a three from J.J. Cravatta, making it 26-20 with 7:11 to play in the half, but Connar Tava made a pair of free throws to keep it a two-bucket game. Whittington made it 26-24 with 6:15 remaining on a pair of free throws, but Daveon Balls dropped a three from the deep right corner to extend the Huskies' lead to five points.
Northern Illinois's lead reached 10 at one point in the half, but Richie made his second three-pointer of the game, dropping a bomb from the left side to make it 34-27 with 1:57 remaining. Balls made another big three late in the shot clock, but Whittington made a lay-up with 7.4 seconds remaining, drawing a foul in the process; Whittington converted the three-point play to make it 37-32, which stood until the halftime horn.
The Broncos went to the paint to start the second half, with Connar Tava bullying his way inside to grab rebounds and make baskets. Tava scored the first four points of the second half for the Broncos, making a lay-up at the 19:30 mark to pull the team with three points, and making another off an offensive rebound at the 18:32 mark to pull the Broncos within two points; Tava drew the foul in that instance as well, making a free throw to make it just 38-37. Tava drew yet another foul early in the half, this one at the 13:51 mark; his two free throws gave him a career-high nine points, and cut NIU's lead to 44-41.
Whittington tied the game at the 12:22 mark of the second half, the first time it had been that way since early in the first; the junior center made a lay-up over the Huskies' Kevin Gray, drawing a foul and making the ensuing free throw to tie it at 44. NIU went on a 8-3 run, though, extending their lead to two possessions with 6:46 remaining in the game. Tava made it a four-point contest with a free throw make at the 6:31 mark, but Antone Christian scored four straight for the Huskies to extend the lead to 56-48 with 5:01 remaining.