Huskies strike down Kent State with three-point mania

Coit drops 32 points in thriller, ties career-high

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Tim Dodge

NIU sophomore guard David Coit (11) makes a three-point attempt while Kent State University redshirt senior guard Sincere Carry (3) defends during Tuesday’s night Mid-American Conference basketball matchup at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. The Huskies upset the Golden Flashes 86-76. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

By Zachary Bertram, Sports Reporter

DeKALB – On a Tuesday night filled with 10 lead changes and 21 3-pointers that culminated in NIU men’s basketball’s upset win over Kent State University, there was one phrase that was consistent throughout.

“David Coit from threeeeeee,” game announcer Brett Myhres said five times throughout Tuesday night’s Mid-American Conference showdown at the Convocation Center.

Sophomore guard David Coit was part of a 3-point shooting barrage that lifted the Huskies (8-12, 4-3 MAC) to their upset win over Kent State (16-4, 6-1 MAC). He sank five of nine 3-point shots on his way to a 32-point performance, beating his previous career-best (31 points) from the season opener on Nov. 7.

Despite Coit lighting it up throughout the game, he trailed senior guard Darweshi Hunter in total points at halftime. Coit logged 10 points while Hunter led the Huskies with 11.

“I thought my guys responded well,” NIU men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno said. “Darweshi Hunter did a really phenomenal job of keeping it close. I think we had seven threes in the first half. When we were a little bit stagnant, he came off the bench and made some huge shots.”

Coit showed up when the Huskies needed him most, scoring 22 of his 32 points in the second half.

An upset in MACtion

NIU handed Kent State its biggest loss of the season, defeating the Golden Flashes 86-76. The Huskies improved to 4-3 in MAC play, and 8-12 overall, while handing Kent State their first conference loss of the season.

“We knew coming in that this was going to be a war of mental fortitude,” Burno said. “Whoever was going to flinch first was going to lose this game.”

The Golden Flashes went into the game with a 16-3 record, with their only three losses coming against nationally-ranked teams such as the University of Houston and Gonzaga University. Kent State was riding a 10-game win streak dating back to Dec. 10.

No Williams, no problem

NIU pulled off Tuesday’s upset with one of its key starters, junior guard Keshawn Williams, missing from the lineup for the fifth straight game. Williams was the Huskies’ scoring leader when he went down with an injury at the University at Buffalo on Jan .7.

“When I assembled this roster, this wasn’t just a Keshawn NIU team,” Burno said. “I had good players along with Keshawn, but it just gives these guys confidence that they can play without a player like Keshawn. Everyone stepped up. You don’t replace Keshawn Williams with one player.”

Dogfight in DeKalb

The Huskies started the game with an alley-oop from redshirt senior forward Anthony Crump to junior forward Harvin Ibarguen for the game’s first basket.

Kent State sophomore guard Jalen Sullinger got off to a blistering start scoring 11 points on 4-for-4 shooting, including 3-for-3 from downtown in a seven-minute stretch. He came off the bench and provided a spark for Kent State.

Despite the Huskies lighting it up from three, Kent State held the lead for the majority of the first half thanks to Sullinger and redshirt senior guard Sincere Carry. Carry nailed a mid-range jumper over Coit to beat the buzzer, giving Kent State a 40-37 halftime lead.

Ibarguen also got the Huskies’ scoring started in the second half, with a layup off a pass from senior guard Kaleb Thornton. Coit followed up with a transition three to give the Huskies a 42-40 lead, NIU’s first lead since the game’s sixth minute.

Pullquote Photo

We knew coming in that this was going to be a war of mental fortitude. Whoever was going to flinch first was going to lose this game.”

— NIU head coach Rashon Burno

Coit’s three started another hot shooting half for the Huskies, sinking six 3-point shots in the half. Coit hit three 3-pointers, helping him score 22 of his 32 points in the final 20 minutes.

The second half was tightly contested, with lots of scoring and nine lead changes throughout the half. The Huskies outscored Kent State 49-36 in the second half.

Thornton recorded NIU’s first point-assist double-double in 13 years. Thornton recorded 13 points and 11 assists, while also doing his part on defense by racking up four steals.

“I always tell people, I can’t get assists unless other people make shots,” Thornton said.

Coit spoke highly of Thornton’s performance after the game.

“He (Thornton) had 11 assists. I got a good amount of those just from being in position, and him trusting me, telling me I’m going to knock it down,” Coit said.

NIU grabbed 18 second half rebounds, compared to 14 for Kent State. Ibarguen led the Huskies with eight rebounds – all coming from the defensive end.

“He’s (Ibarguen) one of the guys that’s more intense, he’s screaming, he’s yelling at us. He’s getting on us about what’s going on… I’m just happy that it (hard work) paid off and people can see it in the biggest game of our season,” Coit said.

After a Kent State redshirt senior guard Miryne Thomas missed a go-ahead 3-pointer, Coit hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game to put the Huskies up 74-70 with 2:44 left to play.

The Huskies went 5-for-6 at the free throw line in the final minute to secure the victory. NIU had an 85% shooting performance from the free throw line, going 17-for-20, highlighted by a perfect 11-for-11 from Coit.

Up next

NIU’s next matchup will see the Huskies welcome Ball State University to the Convocation Center for the second game of a doubleheader with women’s basketball.

“The main thing is just not getting complacent,” Thornton said. “This was our first three-game win streak in almost three years. We don’t want to sit down and be like, ‘you know, we’re good now.’ We only got three in a row. I want to make it four in a row, five in a row. Kent State got 10 in a row. We never want to sit and dwell on a past win. We just got to look forward, look forward, look forward. Ball State is what’s forward.”

NIU will look for their fourth straight win against the Cardinals (13-7, 4-3 MAC). With both teams sitting at 4-3 in league play, NIU could overtake Ball State in the conference standings with a win on Saturday. Ball State sits at No. 4 in the MAC while NIU is on the outside looking in at No. 7.

“They’re (Ball State) a great team,” Thornton said. “They have great guys. (Tony) Sparks is one of the best five-men in the conference so we’re just going to approach it just like we approached this game.”

Tip-off for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center.