Behind a lot of energy and ball movement, NIU men’s basketball came out scoring early and often in its first and only preseason game against Aurora University on Saturday .
With 11:32 left in the first half, NIU had already pushed out to a 21-7 lead behind the strength of a few turnovers and getting out in transition.
“Anytime you get, I think it was a 13-4 run, you feel good about it,” coach Mark Montgomery said. “I thought we got the ball in areas we could score. Different guys scored the ball, I liked our intensity at the start of the game, especially the defensive side.”
By the close of the half, NIU was up 47-26 on the strength of both sophomores Kevin and Keith Gray. Kevin finished the half shooting 5-5 and scored ten points, while Keith had seven points on 3-3.
The scoring continued for NIU in the second half, as NIU closed the game with 89 points to just 56 from Aurora.
“We haven’t scored 89 points in a long time around here,” Montgomery said. “I think we shared the ball, we got out and ran, and the big guys played good inside and set the tone early.”
While the Huskies shot a blistering 56 percent from the field, Aurora struggled all game, shooting 28 percent, attempting 29 threes on the night.
With 7:38 left in the game, NIU was sitting comfortably ahead 78-45 following a three from freshman guard Akeem Springs. Following an Aurora time-out, the Spartans turned the ball over leading to a freshman Mike Davis floater for two. The Spartans then came back down court and shot a long-range two pointer for an air ball.
Freshman guard Daveon Balls is still adjusting to the speed of college play, but was able to contribute in the game with eight points and four assists. Balls knows what the young team could have done better but also knows what brought them success.
“Limiting our turnovers [was big], we’re young point guards and coach is really hard on us as point guards,” Balls said. “Going into the post is where we open everything up for me and for the team so we start to hit a lot of outside shots.”
While the game showed a lot of promise for what is a very young team, Montgomery knows that the game film will provide lots of areas to address before the real season gets underway.
“We are going to go back and look at the film tomorrow [Sunday], show some guys some things and be sharper going into Omaha.” Montgomery said