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It doesn’t matter how good or bad Kent State’s opponents may be, it just seems like it’s going to be one of those seasons where every game could prove to be a struggle.
After playing well (despite losing recently) to the two best teams in the Mid-American Conference in Akron and Ohio, inexperienced Kent State has struggled against teams many basketball folks believe they should be defeating handedly.
One of those teams was Wednesday’s opponent, host Northern Illinois, another young team that entered the 8 p.m. game with only four wins on its resume this season.
Yet, the Huskies (5-14 overall, 3-4 MAC) never lost the lead the entire game and used a last-second shot at the buzzer to stun the Golden Flashes (11-10, 2-5) 67-65 at the NIU Convocation Center.
Northern Illinois led by eight points heading into the final two minutes and appeared to be cruising to the win but first had to withstand a Flashes offensive flurry that once again tied the score.
With two minutes to go, Kent State sophomore guard Devareaux Manley made back-to-back 3-pointers in a span of about 12 seconds to aid a late 8-1 Flashes run that pulled the visitors to within three points, 65-62.
Although a third clutch 3-pointer by Manley briefly tied the game, Huskies sophomore guard Abdel Nader topped off his game-high 26-point performance with a jumper from the elbow with 2.2 seconds to play to hand the Huskies to the upset victory.
With senior guards Chris Evans (seven points) and Randal Holt (nine points) struggling on offense, junior forward Darren Goodson finished with a double-double to lead the Flashes with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Kent State shot just 39 percent from the field in their fourth consecutive loss, compared to NIU’s 47 percent.
In the first half, the Flashes got off to a slow start, spotting the Huskies an 11-1 lead with the double whammy of having Evans needing to take a seat on the bench after picking up two fouls in the first three and a half minutes.
But without Evans, Kent State methodically made up ground and briefly tied the score, only fall back behind again by 11 points. The visitors managed to trim the deficit to seven points by halftime, trailing 34-27. Goodson led the Flashes with 12 first-half points.