DEKALB—Jordan Threloff split a pair of free throws with 15 seconds left in overtime for the games’ final point as seventh-seeded Northern Illinois beat No. 10 seed Bowling Green 54-51 in the first round of the Mid-American Conference tournament on Monday.Jehvon Clarke’s game-tying 3-point attempt was off the mark.Clarke’s trey to end regulation was Bowling Green’s only field goal in the final 4 minutes of the second half. Aaric Armstead made the first of two free throws with 25 seconds left to set up Clarke’s make.Threloff had 13 points and nine rebounds for Northern Illinios (15-16). Armstead finished with 12 points and had four of NIU’ 17 steals.Clarke had 15 points for Bowling Green (12-20) and Richaun Holmes and Cameron Black had 10 apiece. Holmes had 14 rebounds and Black added nine.Northern Illinois plays No. 6 Eastern Michigan on Wednesday in the second round.
Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler understand it.The real victory for the Bulls will come when they’re knocking the Miami Heat out of the playoffs, not during the regular season — no matter how charged the atmosphere is.Even so, they’ll take this.Noah had 20 points and 12 rebounds, D.J. Augustin scored 22 and the Bulls beat the Miami Heat 95-88 in overtime Sunday after Butler blocked LeBron James at the end of regulation.
“I want what they have — a championship,” Noah said. “One day, we’re going to have to get through those guys.”
The Heat have owned them when it counts in recent seasons.With a healthy Derrick Rose and the No. 1 seed in 2011, the Bulls fell to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals. Last year, with Rose out, the Heat knocked off the Bulls in the second round on the way to their second straight championship.
“It’s still a good win,” Butler said. “It gives us confidence we can beat them. But … in the playoffs, like Thibs said, we can’t go around them; you’re going to have to go through them.”
Dwyane Wade scored 25 for Miami, but with James struggling again, the Heat dropped their third straight to match their longest losing streak of the season.James scored 17 points on 8-of-23 shooting and couldn’t come through after Miami blew a 12-point lead down the stretch. With a chance to win it at the end of regulation, he got stripped by Butler on a layup attempt.In overtime, it was all Bulls who outscored Miami 9-2, starting with Augustin’s 3 just under a minute in. Butler added a jumper from the wing, Noah scored on a putback and Butler hit two free throws to make it 95-86 with 1:33 left before James made a layup.Noah also had seven assists and five blocks with his dad — tennis great Yannick Noah — looking on.Butler added 16 points and 11 rebounds while containing James.Wade tried to carry the load for Miami, particularly in the early going. Chris Bosh scored 15, but James had another rough afternoon. The four-time MVP is 23 for 59 in the three games since his career-high and franchise-record 61-point effort against Charlotte last week.James also went without a mask from the start to protect his broken nose, after ditching it during the previous game. He said it was simply uncomfortable, so he decided to play without it even though he was not cleared to do so.The Bulls got back into it after the Heat led by 12 late in the third quarter.Augustin’s 3-pointer and Butler’s steal and two free throws put the Bulls ahead 75-74 midway through the fourth.It was 82-82 with just over two minutes left when Noah blocked a layup by James. Taj Gibson raced the other way for a thunderous dunk while getting fouled by Mario Chalmers, drawing a roar from the crowd.James tied it again on a layup with 1:10 left. Wade then stole the ball from Butler and hit two free throws after getting fouled inside by Noah to give Miami an 86-84 lead with 29.2 seconds remaining. But Kirk Hinrich quickly scooped in a runner to knot it at 86 with 20.1 seconds left.After a timeout, James took the inbounds pass and got stripped driving for a layup along the right side by Butler to send this one to overtime.
“I dropped the ball. It’s like a double entendre,” James said. “I actually dropped the ball, but I dropped the ball on my team. I had it. That’s a great play. I give a lot of credit to Jimmy. He got his hand on the ball, but I had the lane. I had the layup.”
NOTES—Things got a bit heated between James and Butler late in the first half. They got tangled going for a loose ball near the Heat basket after James tried to corral a long pass. As they hit the court, Butler’s foot hit James’ nose, and James appeared to push him. Both players got technicals. “Two competitors were down there,” Butler said. “Whatever happened, happened. But I don’t back down.” James brushed it off, saying, “Just two competitors going at it, one trying not to give an edge.” … The Bulls and Heat split the season series at 2-2.
BUFFALO—First, Patrick Kane gave his family and friends something to cheer about by scoring a highlight-reel goal in a rare trip home to Buffalo on Sunday night.Then, Kane stuck around an hour after the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory against the Sabres, by posing for pictures and signing autographs in the stands.As homecomings go, Kane’s was nearly complete except that his beloved grandfather Donald Kane was not around to see it after passing away last month.
“No matter what, you’re going to miss him,” Kane said, following only his fourth NHL game at Buffalo. “But life goes on, and I think more importantly, I have a lot of family here at the game that came and supported me.”
Coach Joel Quenneville saw a jump during a performance in which Kane snapped a five-game goal drought that began after his grandfather’s death.
“I thought Kane was special,” Quenneville said. “He was a threat and had the puck on his stick tonight; very dangerous and nice to see him play well here at home.”
Kane opened the scoring 3:12 in, by capping a breath-taking rush. Bursting past defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, Kane snapped a shot through the legs of defenseman Chad Ruhwedel that beat goalie Jhonas Enroth over the left shoulder.Kane nearly made it 2-1 with 8 minutes left in the second period, when he got in alone behind the Sabres’ defense only to have his backhander stopped by Enroth. He also scored into an empty net, but a second after the final horn sounded.Captain Jonathan Toews secured the victory by scoring the go-ahead goal 1:34 into the third period.Corey Crawford stopped 20 shots, and the Blackhawks (38-13-14) snapped a two-game road skid.Drew Stafford scored for the league-worst Sabres (19-37-8), who had a three-game home winning streak snapped.Stafford capped a nifty three-way passing play to tie the game midway through the first period. Tyler Ennis started it by finding trailing forward Cory Conacher driving up the left wing. Conacher drew Crawford from out of the net and slipped a pass into the crease where Stafford jammed it in after his first chance was blocked by Brent Seabrook.The assist for Ennis made up for a goal he had disallowed a few minutes earlier, when he was called for hooking Crawford.
“I didn’t think it was a penalty, and frustrated that I had the goal taken away,” Ennis said. “But I don’t think that was the turning point.”
The difference was the Sabres’ ongoing difficulties on offense, which has managed a league-low 122 goals.Buffalo’s power play went 0-for-5 on Sunday, and is 0-for-10 over its past four games.Enroth stopped 29 shots and had little chance on either of the two goals he gave up.With the game tied at 1 and the Sabres mounting a threat in the Hawks end to open the third period, Toews answered by capping a 3-on-2 rush the other way. Andrew Shaw crossed Buffalo’s blue line and found Brandon Saad breaking up the right wing. Saad drew Enroth his way before steering a pass through the crease to Toews, who then snapped it in the open side.It was Toews’ 25th goal of the season and sixth in four games.Toews has shown little sign of a post-Olympic hangover after he helped Canada win a gold medal at Sochi.
“I think he’s returned from the Olympics in great shape, very confident,” Quenneville said. “He just seems to have the knack, has good pace with it, has the puck a lot as well. And when he’s around the net, he’s getting rewarded.”
The Blackhawks extended their winning streak to five games against the Sabres. And with 90 points, they jumped into third place in the Western Conference standings, a point ahead of idle San Jose.
NOTES—Kane was the last Hawks player off the ice following pregame warmups and got a big cheer after flipping a puck into a large crowd of Blackhawks jersey-wearing fans behind the team’s bench. … Sabres C Conacher made his debut with Buffalo since being claimed Wednesday, a day after being waived by Ottawa. Conacher played college at Buffalo’s Canisius and is from nearby Burlington, Ontario. … The Sabres suspended D Rostislav Klesla for failing to report to the team’s AHL affiliate in Rochester. Acquired in a trade with Washington on Wednesday, Klesla told Canadian broadcaster TSN that he intended to not finish the NHL season, and instead planned to continue his career in Europe.
WEST LAFAYETTE—Drew Crawford had 27 points and seven rebounds and Alex Olah added 14 points and seven rebounds to lead Northwestern to a 74-65 victory over Purdue on Sunday in the regular season finale for both teams.The Wildcats (13-18, 6-12 Big Ten), who snapped a league-worst seven-game skid, closed out the first half on a 6-2 run to take a 28-21 lead at halftime. Northwestern went on a 9-2 run midway through the second half capped off with a 3-pointer by Sanjay Lumpkin with 11:17 remaining for a 45-32 lead.Rapheal Davis had 13 points and nine rebounds and A.J. Hammons added 13 points for the Boilermakers (15-16, 5-13), who have lost six straight.The two teams, who sit at the bottom of the league standings, fought for better seeding in the league tournament in Indianapolis starting Thursday.But it’s been a touch stretch for Northwestern and Purdue and the long losing streaks haven’t helped. Four of Purdue’s six losses came to top 20 teams. The Wildcats dropped two games to ranked opponents in the final stretch of the regular season.The Wildcats finally pulled away midway through the second half.Crawford scored to give Northwestern a 36-27 lead before Hammons was fouled on a basket and converted the 3-point play to make it 36-30 with 14:07 remaining.Olah scored, Nikola Cerina grabbed a steal from Davis and Crawford made a free throw before Lumpkin’s 3 to put the Wildcats ahead by 12.The Boilermakers honored four seniors on senior day. Terone Johnson, Travis Carroll, Errick Peck, and Sterling Carter were recognized after the game.Terone Johnson and Carroll have each spent the last four seasons with the Boilermakers. Carter transferred from Seattle University and Peck moved in from Cornell after last season.Purdue went on a run late in the game.Kale Abrahamson, who finished with seven points and five rebounds, scored to give the Wildcats a 56-41 lead before Kendall Stephens hit a 3-pointer to spark a 10-2 run.Terone Johnson scored a free throw and a lay-up and Hammons hit a jumper and two free throws to make it 58-51 with 4:29 remaining. Tre Demps and Abrahamson each scored a free throw before Davis made a 3 to make it 60-54 with 2:44 left.The Boilermakers shot just 19 percent in the first half and the Wildcats took a 22-16 lead when Olah hit a 3-pointer.Carroll missed a 3, but grabbed the rebound and Peck hit a 3-pointer to make it 22-19 before the Wildcats closed out the first half on a 6-2 run.Olah scored before Stephens made two free throws for Purdue to make it 24-21.Crawford made a pair of free throws before Dave Sobolewski blocked a 3-point attempt by Stephens and Demps scored on a fast-break lay-up to give the Wildcats a 28-21 halftime lead.
IOWA CITY—Illinois didn’t have any timeouts to draw up a final play so senior Jon Ekey just waited on the wing.His patience was paid off.Ekey hit a deep, contested 3-pointer in the final second to lift Illinois to a 66-63 victory over No. 24 Iowa on Saturday night.
“It felt good,” Ekey said of the release. “They switched it. They guarded it well.”
Rayvonte Rice scored 15 points to lead the Illini (18-13, 7-11 Big Ten), who notched consecutive road wins against ranked opponents for the first time since 2005.Iowa’s Roy Devyn Marble — the Big Ten’s leading scorer — was held to eight points on 3-of-11 shooting. The struggling Hawkeyes (20-11, 9-9) have lost five of their last six games.A foul on Iowa’s Mike Gesell with 13.8 seconds remaining reset the shot clock and gave Illinois the final shot.On the final play, Illinois’ Tracy Abram dribbled down the final seconds at top of the key. Abram first looked to Rice, but when he was covered the ball kicked out to Ekey, who drained the 30-foot game-winner over the outstretched arm of 6-foot-9 Aaron White with a half-second on the game clock. Iowa’s desperation heave from the baseline was picked off.
“We’re playing the best we’ve played all year on both ends,” Illinois coach John Groce said. “You want to have momentum and you want to be playing well.”
Ekey, who finished with 12 points, hit another big 3-pointer with 3:03 left to give the Illini a 63-59 lead.The Hawkeyes misfired on their next few trips. Gesell missed a 3-pointer, Adam Woodbury threw away the ball and White mishandled a pass.Illinois split the season series with Iowa despite 13 turnovers that led to 23 points for the Hawkeyes. The Illini were coming off a home loss to No. 12 Michigan on Tuesday, but had beaten then No. 18 Michigan State in East Lansing on March 1.Iowa is 15-4 this season when making at least five 3-pointers.Marble — the only player in the Big Ten to score in double figures in every game before Saturday — had scored at least 20 points in each of the last five games.Illinois snapped the Hawkeyes’ 30-game home winning streak against unranked opponents.Illinois trailed most of the second half before Joseph Bertrand’s jumper gave the Illini a 55-54 lead with 8:37 left.The Hawkeyes tied it up twice after that, but never regained the lead.Illinois’ Nnanna Egwu had 14 points and six rebounds.White led Iowa with 12 points and eight rebounds, and Woodbury added 11 points.Iowa dug out of an early deficit with a 17-1 run in the first half.Illinois opened the game with a 20-6 lead after scoring on eight of its first 10 possessions against the Hawkeyes’ zone. Then McCaffery shifted to a smaller, quicker lineup and the Hawkeyes turned up the defensive intensity with tight man-to-man pressure.Illinois went nearly eight minutes without a field goal as Iowa took a 23-21 lead.Almost all of that first-half spurt came without Marble, who picked up an early second foul and played only nine minutes in the first half.The Hawkeyes honored seniors Marble, Melsahn Basabe, Zach McCabe and Darius Stokes on the floor before the game.McCabe set a school record by playing in his 134th game.
ST. LOUIS—Khristian Smith tipped in a missed Justin Gant jumper with 14 seconds remaining to give No. 2 seed Indiana State a 62-59 win over sixth-seeded Southern Illinois in the semifinal round of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament Saturday.Desmar Jackson had a look at a 3-point jumper with 3 seconds left but missed as Gant had his hands in Jackson’s face.Indiana State won the right to face No. 2 Wichita State in the tournament championship game Sunday. Undefeated Wichita State, now 33-0, routed Missouri State 67-42 in the other semifinal game.Jake Odum, who made three straight free throws in the closing minutes, led Indiana State (23-9) with 20 points and Gant added 13.Jackson, who made only 1 of 10 field goal attempts, made two free throws to pull SIU within one, 60-59 with 45 seconds left.Anthony Beane had 16 points for Southern Illinois (14-19). All four MVC teams from the State of Illinois are now eliminated.
Nate Duhon scored 18 points to lead Chicago State to a 67-53 win over Seattle on Saturday.Matt Ross added 15 points and 10 rebounds and Quinton Pippen had 14 points for Chicago State (13-18, 8-8 Western Athletic Conference), which earned the third seed in the league tournament in Las Vegas next week.Jarell Flora had 22 points for Seattle (13-16, 5-11). He had 16 in the second half but he was the only effective player for the Red Hawks. Seattle shot 31.3 percent, going 9 of 22 from 3-point range (41 percent) but just 6-26 from inside the arc. The Redhawks also struggled from the foul line (14-23) and had 24 turnovers.Chicago State, which had never been as high as a three-seed in any conference it was in since joining the Mid-Continent Conference in 1994, made 12 of 16 free throws in the second half.
ST. LOUIS—Freshman Austin Ruder matched his career-high with 21 points and fourth-seeded Missouri State made just enough free throws down the stretch Thursday for a 53-48 win over fifth-seeded Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals.The Bears (20-11) face top-seeded and second-ranked Wichita State in the semifinals.Ruder hit a 3-pointer with 2:05 lead to put Missouri State up 48-46. After a miss by the Redbirds (16-15), Keith Pickens had a tip-in to make it 50-46 with 42 seconds remaining. After that, the Bears made 3 of 6 free throws, two by Dorrian Williams after Zach Lofton’s jumper for Illinois State made it 50-48 with 11 seconds to play.Zach Lofton came off the bench to score a career-high 25 for Illinois State, which trailed 22-17 at the half.Neither team shot even 33 percent, combining for 14 of 46 3′s and 19 of 36 free throws.
Jake Odum scored 18 points as second-seeded Indiana State knocked off No. 10 seed Loyola 75-62 in a Missouri Valley Conference quarterfinal on Friday.Indiana State faces Southern Illinois (14-18) in the semifinals. SIU eliminated Northern Iowa 63-58 on Friday.Indiana State (21-9) shot 53 percent from the floor and made five 3-pointers. Justin Gant scored 14 points with four assists for the Sycamores and Devonte Brown added 12 points.Jeff White led Loyola (10-21) with 13 points, the only Rambler in double figures.Odum scored the last nine points of the first half for Indiana State as it took a 26-22 lead into the break.A 6-0 run at the start of the second half pushed the Sycamore lead to 10 and Loyola coach Porter Moser called timeout. The Ramblers scored the next two buckets to cut the lead to six, but that’s as close as they got as Indiana State ran its lead as high as 20 down the stretch.
Desmar Jackson had 23 points and 11 rebounds as sixth-seeded Southern Illinois squandered a 19-point second-half lead on Friday night, but held on to beat No. 3 seed Northern Iowa 63-58.Anthony Beane added 16 points for SIU (14-18) which extended a 36-18 halftime lead to 43-24 early in the second half and was still leading 52-41 on Davante Drinkard’s jumper with 6:18 left. UNI (16-15) rattled off 11 straight points over the next three minutes to tie the game at 52.But the Panthers never took the lead as Southern Illinois scored five straight to take the lead for good and UNI missed all five of its 3-point attempts in the final two minutes.Seth Tuttle had 15 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots for UNI.The victory advances the Salukis to the Missouri Valley Conference semifinals where they will face No. 2 seed Indiana State on Saturday.
Marc Gasol had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the Memphis Grizzlies used their stout defense to beat the Bulls 85-77 Friday night.Mike Miller made four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points as the Grizzlies closed out a three-game road trip with their third victory in four games. Zach Randolph added 10 points and 11 rebounds after missing Memphis’ previous game with the flu.The Grizzlies shut out the Bulls after Taj Gibson’s layup trimmed Memphis’ lead to 81-77 with 3:15 to go. Mike Conley made two free throws and Gasol had a layup to help Memphis secure the win.Gasol missed the Grizzlies’ 95-91 loss to the Bulls in Memphis on Dec. 30 due to a sprained left knee. But the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year made a difference in this one, going 8 for 16 from the field and helping hold Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer in check on defense.Gibson had 18 points for the Bulls, who had won 10 of 12. Playing with a sprained right thumb, Noah finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists, but also had six of the Bulls’ 13 turnovers.The visit by Memphis (35-26) presented a look in the mirror for the Bulls (34-28). Heading into the weekend, the Bulls were the NBA’s second-best defensive team at 92.3 points per game, followed by the Grizzlies at 95.2. Memphis was averaging 95.7 points, good for 25th in the 30-team NBA, with the Bulls last in the league at 93.3 per game.The Grizzlies and Bulls even had nearly identical records coming into the night. But due to the strength of their respective conferences, the Grizzlies were ninth in the West, one game out of a playoff spot, while the Bulls were fourth in the East.True to form, there were few open shots and the paint resembled a bumper-car ride for much of the night.Memphis led 15-12 after one, holding the Home team to 22 percent shooting, but the Bulls started to heat up in the second quarter. D.J. Augustin scored 12 in the period and Noah had a late layup to help the Bulls take a 39-35 advantage at the break.
NOTES—Asked at the morning shootaround about a report that he talked to New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony during the All-Star break about coming to Chicago, Noah responded: “You want me to address that? I don’t feel like addressing it. I really have nothing to say about it.” … There was a pregame moment of silence for David Reinsdorf, the son of Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf who died Monday at age 51. The Bulls will wear a patch on their jerseys with David Reinsdorf’s initials for the rest of the regular season.
Andrew Shaw stopped a long scoring drought. Jonathan Toews had another big game. The Blackhawks had 13 players with at least one point.Yup, those line changes worked out pretty well for the Stanley Cup champions.Shaw and Toews had two goals apiece, and the Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-1 on Thursday night to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.
“I think all the lines had some chemistry tonight,” Shaw said. “It was a big win for us.”
Brandon Bollig and Bryan Bickell also scored as The Hawks bounced back from a 4-2 home loss to Colorado on Tuesday night. Corey Crawford made 22 saves for his 10th consecutive victory against Columbus.With St. Louis and Colorado also winning, the Blackhawks remained two points back of the Blues for the Central Division lead and one point ahead of the Avalanche.
“We’re motivated to build ourselves into the team we want to be come playoff time, but that adds to it to keep us honest, to make sure we’re competing the right way every night,”
Toews said, highlighting the bunched standings out West.
Ryan Johansen scored his 25th goal for the Blue Jackets, who had won three in a row. Sergei Bobrovsky made 14 stops before he was pulled during the Blackhawks’ three-goal second period.The Blackhawks had managed only eight goals while dropping three of four, and five of those came against Pittsburgh at Soldier Field on Saturday. That prompted coach Joel Quenneville to shuffle his lines, putting Shaw with Toews and Brandon Saad in the top group and moving Patrick Sharp to the second line with Michal Handzus and Patrick Kane.It worked.After Johansen took advantage of a bad line change to tie it at 1 at 7:56 of the first, it was all Blackhawks. They outshot the Blue Jackets 33-23 for the game and lead the NHL with 221 goals.
“Jonny’s line had the big night, with several offensive zone shifts, some real nice plays and some nice [finishes] as well,” Quenneville said.
Shaw said it was his first time playing on the same line with Toews since his first NHL game on Jan. 5, 2012, at Philadelphia. Shaw also scored in that one, with Toews picking up an assist.For all that time apart, they sure looked pretty comfortable together.Shaw sparked the runaway win when he made the most of a terrific pass by Sheldon Brookbank, beating Bobrovsky into the upper right corner with 3:16 left in the first. Brookbank’s long pass banked off the boards and sprung Shaw for a breakaway on the right side of the ice.
“It was unbelievable. I think we just made eye contact and we knew what we were going to do,” Shaw said.
The Hawks added three more in the second, highlighted by Saad’s impressive series of moves that set up Toews for an easy score.Saad skated around James Wisniewski and Nathan Horton before he was stopped by Bobrovsky. The rebound went right back to Saad, who passed to Toews on the other side of the net to make it 3-1 eight minutes into the second.Bickell had a rebound score that chased Bobrovsky and Brent Seabrook’s slap shot went off Shaw and past Curtis McElhinney with 2:16 left in the period. It was the 16th goal for Shaw, who stopped an 11-game drought.Toews added a power-play goal in the third for his 24th of the season. The captain has five goals and an assist in the last three games.It was more than enough for Crawford, who improved to 10-2-0 in his career against the Blue Jackets. He made a nice save on Matt Calvert’s backhand in the first and turned away Nick Foligno on a close opportunity in the second.
NOTES—Blackhawks C Peter Regin missed the morning skate, but Quenneville said he was resting and he had 15 shifts in the game. … Ds David Rundblad and Michal Rozsvial, plus injured F Marian Hossa, were the scratches for the Blackhawks.