MILWAUKEE – The MSOE men's basketball nearly overcame an 11-point second-half deficit, pulling within one late, before falling to Illinois Tech 54-51 in the NACC Tournament Semifinals Saturday night at Hotchkin Arena.
The top-seeded Raiders (21-5) suffered through their worst shooting game of the season but was within one of the No. 4 Scarlet Hawks (16-11) in the final minute before falling. IIT advances to the NACC Championship game Sunday against No. 3 Aurora, which beat Concordia Wisconsin 96-84 earlier in the day in the other semifinal contest.
Max Hisatake led Illinois Tech with 16 points and 18 rebounds in the game. Ahmad Muhammad added 13 points off the bench.
The visitors capitalized on a cold start to the second half, rattling off a 20-6 run to open a game-high 11-point lead at 40-29.
MSOE still trailed by 11 at 46-35 with just over 11 minutes remaining in regulation. Some stout defense sparked an 11-1 run that made it 47-46 on a Palesse fall-away jumper with 2:40 to go in the game. He tallied six-straight points to pull his team within one.
IIT scored the next five points but the Raiders quickly answered with five points of their own. Pitrof hit a key three-pointer with 26.4 seconds on the clock to make it 52-51.
After one free throw on the other end, MSOE got two looks at a tying basket down two points but both were off the mark. Hisatake collected a rebound at the 1.5-second mark to effectively seal the game. He hit one free throw for a three-point lead and the Scarlet Hawk defense kept Palesse off balance to force a difficult half-court attempt that landed off the mark as the horn sounded.
The Raiders shot just 30.5 percent from the field, including a 4-for-20 clip from three-point range. The team did convert on 11-of-14 free throws, which helped keep it close as IIT was just 9-for-19 at the free throw line. Illinois Tech finished the game shooting 37.3 percent with 7-of-20 successful three-point tries.