Turnovers cost Zips

“The University of Akron men’s basketball team fell to the Northern Illinois Huskies 83-79 on Sunday at the Convocation Center, snapping the team’s season-long seven-game winning streak. The game was a tale of two halves that saw the score tied at 75 with 1.”

The University of Akron men’s basketball team fell to the Northern Illinois Huskies 83-79 on Sunday at the Convocation Center, snapping the team’s season-long seven-game winning streak.

The game was a tale of two halves that saw the score tied at 75 with 1.37 to go. A conventional three-point play by NIU sophomore guard Darion Anderson on a layup and made free throw would prove to be the difference in a game full of momentum swings.

During the first half and the early stages of the second, it did not appear that the Huskies (7-16, 3-8 Mid-American Conference) would have to worry about making such a play, as NIU maintained a comfortable lead. The Zips (16-9, 7-4 MAC) saw their deficit balloon to 19 points in each half.

I was a little bit disappointed with how we came out today, UA head coach Keith Dambrot said during his post-game news conference. They came out and punched us in the mouth and put us on our heels.

The Zips, who’ve made a habit of coming back from large deficits, used a 16-0 run within the first 10 minutes of the final period to get back into the game.

While the Zips made more field goals (29) than the Huskies (23), NIU got to the free throw line 47 times, hitting 31 of its attempts. UA attempted only 16 shots from the charity stripe, hitting 14.

It’s hard to win a game when you shoot 16 free throws and they shoot 47, Dambrot said. You are not going to win a game like that.

The Zips, who had an efficient assist-to-turnover ratio during their win streak, turned the ball over 15 times while dishing out 13 assists on Sunday.

NIU head coach Ricardo Patton said it was evident during Sunday’s contest that the Huskies had learned from the mistakes they made in a double-overtime loss to Kent State in their previous outing.

This was a great win for our young players, Patton said. There is no question we took lessons from the last game versus Kent State. We saw the opportunities we squandered. Today our guys believed if we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we can win this game.

Anderson led the Huskies with 24 points, as NIU used a hot shooting first half (15-of-27, 5-of-8 on 3-pointers) to shoot 47.9 percent (23-of-48) from the field. The 2008 MAC Freshman of the Year also tallied a team-high 10 rebounds.

While the Huskies only shot 66 percent from the free throw line, they came into the game with the nation’s worst free throw percentage (58.1 percent) this season.

UA was led offensively by sophomore forward Brett McKnight, who achieved his first career double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Nate Linhart added 19 points to tie his career-best.

The Zips, who are currently in a three-way tie for third place in the MAC East, will return home Wednesday to host the Miami RedHawks. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.