DeKALB, Ill. — The University of Toledo men’s basketball team surrendered another big second-half lead, but still managed a gutsy 88-80 overtime win Saturday against Northern Illinois at the Convocation Center.
The Rockets (14-13, 7-7 MAC), fresh off a loss Tuesday at Akron in which they held an 11-point second-half lead, saw a 15-point second-half lead slip away in this game against the Huskies and needed some late-game heroics to send the game to overtime.
“We played well at Akron, and we felt we gave one away,” UT coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “We stopped defending the post and had some empty possessions on offense. This would have been an awful loss because of the Akron game and now we made up for it.”
Toledo led 59-44 after Justin Roberts banked in a deep 3-pointer with 11:31 left.
Northern Illinois (14-13, 6-8) then capped a furious rally with a 3 from Austin Pauga with 1:52 left to give the Huskies a 71-67 lead.
But Nate Navigato made two free throws after an offensive rebound to cut the NIU lead to 71-69 with 1:20 left. Navigato then tied the game at 71 with 31 seconds left on a mid-range jumper off a pass from Jonathan Williams.
Toledo got a final defensive stop as Pauga missed a 3 at the buzzer to force overtime.
In the overtime period, Williams got Toledo off to a good start and Navigato made a key 3 to help give the Rockets a much-needed road win.
Williams scored the first five points for Toledo in the extra period. The Rockets led 79-78 when Navigato drained a 3 to stretch the lead to 82-78 with 1:31 left. Taylor Adway twice made 1 of 2 free throws on consecutive trips to the foul line, Jordan Lauf finished a fast-break layup, then Adway punctuated the win with a breakaway dunk.
Williams and Navigato scored 21 points each to lead Toledo. Steve Taylor, Jr., added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Jaelan Sanford tallied 12 points.
Eugene German paced Northern Illinois with 27 points, while Marin Maric added 24, and Pauga had 12, on four 3s.
With the win against the Huskies, the Rockets keep pace with first-place Ball State (8-6 MAC) in the MAC West standings and are now tied with Western Michigan for second at 7-7.
The overtime game was the seventh of the season for Toledo, a school record.
“We deserved that one, I will tell you that,” Kowalczyk said. ”Give our guys credit, we could have lost our swagger. I was just proud of our gutsiness tonight.”
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