Senior guards post career days in loss to Toledo

Turnovers prove costly in MACtion battle


Courtesy of NIU Athletics

Then-junior guard Kaleb Thornton searches for a passing lane during Wednesday’s matchup against the Toledo Rockets. Thornton was NIU’s second-best scorer in the contest with 18 points as the Huskies lost 100-72 to their Mid-American Conference Rivals in DeKalb.

By Ethan Gonzales, Sports Editor

DeKALB – Career-best scoring performances by NIU senior guards Darweshi Hunter and Kaleb Thornton were not enough to defend home court in Tuesday’s MAC battle against the University of Toledo.

Both players led the box score as the Rockets handed NIU men’s basketball its third loss in four games. The Huskies fell 84-67 with their top scorer, junior guard Keshawn Williams, still out with an injury .

Hunter was the game’s top scorer with 22 points as well as four rebounds. Thornton finished the game with 21 points, five rebounds and seven assists. Both players had a 5-for-7 shooting performance from three-point land.

“My catch and shoot three, I think, got me going,” Hunter said. “I was a little bit more aggressive than I normally am; seeing some shots go through the basket got me going.”

Thornton said his five three-pointers were attributed to the work that he puts in every day.

“A lot of work, a lot of reps is something that I pride myself on,” Thornton said. “I was not heralded as a great shooter ever in my career. But I think the work I put in shows in games like this.”


The Achilles’ heel of NIU

Turnovers proved to be the deciding factor for the Huskies’ loss. NIU recorded 12 turnovers in the first half and 16 overall. 

NIU men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno said he was not pleased with his team’s ball security.

“When we get sped up, and try to do too much, we put ourselves in harm’s way,” Burno said. “Some of it is lack of focus, lack of concentration. We got to do a better job of not turning the ball over because it just deflates you.”

Thornton agreed with Burno about the problems that the team has endured all year.

“It’s been our Achilles’ heel all year,” Thornton said. “I feel like if we could clean up our turnovers, we could clean up a lot of our problems.”

Tale of two halves

The first half was an uncharacteristic one for sophomore guard David Coit, as he shot 0-for-6 from three-point range. The Huskies trailed by 18 to end the first half, unable to make up for Coit’s absence on the offensive end. Thornton was NIU’s leading scorer with seven points at halftime.

Coit finished the game with just six points on 2-for-13 shooting from the field.

Toledo junior guard RayJ Dennis and sophomore guard Dante Maddox Jr. combined for 25 points in the first half.

Thornton started the second half with three quick three-pointers to cut Toledo’s lead down to 13 with 15 minutes left to play. The Rockets put the Huskie run to bed after jump shots from Dennis and sophomore forward André Lorentsson. Toledo led 64-44 with 9:31 left to play, running away with the lead after that point.

Four players recorded double digit points for the Rockets. Maddox Jr. finished with 18 points and two rebounds to lead all Toledo scorers.

Looking ahead

NIU falls to 5-12 overall and 1-3 in MAC play. Toledo improves to 11-6 overall and 2-2 in conference play. NIU is currently 11th place in MAC standings while Toledo sits at 4th place.

The Huskies will face Miami University next at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Oxford, Ohio. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and will be available on The Varsity Network via radio broadcast.