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Huskies hope mountains are not too rocky

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Posted: Monday, November 21, 2011 10:55 pm | Updated: 1:33 pm, Fri Sep 5, 2014.

Sometimes, a change of scenery is all it takes to reverse bad fortunes.

Perhaps a glimpse of the rocky mountains will help NIU men's basketball turn things around.

The Huskies (0-4) are winless after dropping their fourth loss in a row at home to Eastern Illinois over the weekend and will look to win their first game of the year when they travel west to play Boise State (3-0) Saturday.

Last year, the Broncos vaulted from the cellar to near the top of the now-defunct Western Athletic Conference standings, finishing 22-13 under first year head coach Leon Rice.

This year, in the new Mountain West Conference, Boise State is building on that momentum, beating all three opponents by an average of 38 points while shooting a lights out 52 percent from field goal range.

The Broncos have been fueled so far by the freshman scoring tandem of guard/forward Anthony Drmic and guard Derrick Marks. Drmic is averaging 15 points per game to lead the team in scoring and is shooting 55 percent from beyond the arc. Marks is not far off the pace, averaging 13.3 points per game, and is good at drawing fouls and getting to the line, evidenced by his team-leading 25 free throw attempts.

Inside the paint, Bosie State will look to exploit a size advantage over the smaller NIU frontcourt, with 6-9 sophomore forward Ryan Watkins, who is averaging 10 points per game and leads the team in rebounding.

The Huskies will look to avoid another blowout loss at the hands of the Broncos, who came into DeKalb last winter and ran away with an 80-51 win. In doing so, NIU will have to limit its turnovers. This year, the Huskies have averaged 21 turnovers per game, a statistic that NIU head coach Mark Montgomery says is indicative of his young team.

"With a young team, you're going to have to live with some of those turnovers, unfortunately, [partly because] you don't want [your team] to lose their confidence and their aggressiveness," Montgomery said.

NIU is averaging only 9.5 assists per game as a team and has not been getting much help from the point guard position, where the team has been shuffling between sophomore guard Antone Christian and freshman Zach Miller.

Part of the reason assists have been lacking is because of the transition Christian has had to make this year from playing off-guard to point guard, where he has been asked to be more of a scorer than a distributor.

"I was used more as an off-guard last year, and this year they're looking for me to be more aggressive in terms of my play," Christian said. "As far as being a point guard, the coach wants me to be more of a scoring guard. He doesn't want me to change my game. He just wants me to initiate more, and once I initiate the offense, he wants me to be a scoring guard."

Assists haven't been the only problem; the shooting has not been there, the defense hasn't been creating turnovers and the three point shooting has been almost nonexistent.

While these problems persist, Montgomery said NIU players need more time on the floor together before they experience success.

"It's going to take some time when you've got three or four freshmen and some second and third year players who haven't played much," Montgomery said. "But the more time you get on the floor together in game type situations, the more you can learn from your mistakes because the next day you can look at the film and talk about it and work on some of the things you have to get better at."

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