Morris rode a 35-17 rebounding advantage to a 56-53 Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East boys basketball win over DeKalb on its home floor Friday night.
“They’re, I think, more athletic and have more length than us,” Morris coach Joe Blumberg said of the Barbs. “I thought Brock Kukman [14 rebounds] did a great job. It’s the key to the win. You don’t have a stop until you secure the rebound, and I thought we got rebounds in key spots.”
Evan Bjelland, who led Morris (15-3, 3-1) with 17 points, scored the first five points of the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer and a drive, elevating Morris into the lead for good after it had trailed, 40-38, to begin the fourth. After Dre Brown scored for DeKalb, baskets by Sam Allen and Tanner Sampson made it 47-42, Morris.
DeKalb got a basket from Rudy Lopez Jr. at the 4:03 mark of the quarter, and did not score again until Jace Kitchen hit a 3-pointer with 1:36 to go. During that drought, Allen made 3 of 4 free throws and a field goal, and Bjelland added a foul shot.
A Luke Davis III basket got DeKalb within 3 points and, after Bjelland made 1 of 2, the Barbs got a rebound, but a traveling violation and a Bjelland basket all but ensured the outcome. DeKalb was 1 for 8 from 3-point land in the fourth.
“They missed some shots,” Blumberg said, “but we rebounded ... and I thought we closed out and didn’t allow them to take too many shots in rhythm.”
Morris’ Austin Patterson scored 12 of his 15 points in the first half, which ended with Morris ahead, 28-26.
After a 3-3 start, the teams exchanged lengthy runs in the first quarter. DeKalb’s came first, with the Barbs scoring 10 straight, including a three-point play from Kitchen and a 3-pointer from Ethan Conroy.
Morris countered by scoring the final seven points of the quarter on a Sampson basket, its first in 4:29, a Patterson 3-pointer and two Bjelland free throws. It then scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second quarter, with Patterson doing the bulk of the damage with a pair of 3-pointers.
A Bjelland 3 with 3:45 left in the second quarter gave Morris a 23-17 lead, which DeKalb chipped away at the rest of the half. Lopez 3-point play with six-tenths of a second left countered Patterson’s fourth 3-pointer, which had happened seconds earlier.