NIU defeats Bowling Green for fourth straight road win


Mingda Wu

David Coit (11) shoots against Ball State sophomore forward Basheer Jihad (11) and redshirt sophomore forward Mickey Pearson Jr. (3) during the first half of an NCAA basketball game Jan. 28 at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. (Mingda Wu | Northern Star)

By Zachary Bertram, Sports Reporter

NIU took down Bowling Green State University 86-78 Saturday afternoon for its fifth win over the last six games. The Huskies earned their fourth straight road win, NIU’s longest such streak since the 2002-2003 season. 

“This is a journey and these guys are resilient. We’ve had everything from sickness to injuries. These guys are showing a tremendous amount of grit and toughness. Road victories say a lot about what you’re about,” NIU men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno said. “I’m excited, obviously we’re moving in the right direction, but we’ve got so much more to accomplish.”

The Huskies led the Falcons for the entirety of the game thanks to ball movement and an efficient 32-for-60 shooting night. Sophomore guard David Coit led NIU in scoring with 21 points, while senior guard Kaleb Thornton led the way in the passing game, dishing out nine assists. 

“It (Thornton’s passing) was great. He got everybody involved and everybody got touches,” senior guard Darweshi Hunter said. “He’s a big key to our offense.”

Bowling Green was led by senior forward Chandler Turner who scored 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting, to go along with five rebounds. Senior guard Leon Ayers III chipped in 20 points on 8-for-14 shooting for the Falcons. 

The win helped the Huskies improve to 10-13 overall with a 6-4 record in the Mid-American Conference record. Bowling Green falls to 10-13 overall and 4-6 in the MAC, losers of three straight.

“It was a good game,” sophomore guard Zarique Nutter said. “We continued to gel together. We’re gonna start over tomorrow, get back in the lab and continue to build.”


NIU used an efficient shooting first half to take a narrow 44-37 lead into the halftime break. The Huskies shot 56% from the field in the first half, compared to 44% for the Falcons. NIU held the lead for the entire first half, holding its largest lead at 14. 

NIU continued its stellar three-point shooting against the Falcons, shooting 5-for-12 from beyond the arc in the first half. Hunter led the way for the Huskies with nine points at the break, highlighted by 3-for-4 shooting from three point range.

“I thought Darweshi Hunter had some big minutes. His early start really helped us,” Burno said. “Darweshi has been phenomenal for us in spots we need him.”

Ayers III countered for Bowling Green, leading the team with 13 points of his own in the first half. Ayers III shot a smooth 5-for-7 in the first half, while adding two rebounds and two assists.

The Huskies’ ball movement was another important part of their first half performance. NIU recorded 11 assists on 18 made field goals in the half, seven of those assists coming from Thornton. 

“KT (Thornton) didn’t have a great shooting night. But we had 21 assists to just eight turnovers. The turnover bug has been way down,” Burno said. 


Although NIU held the lead for the entire game, which led them to a seemingly comfortable eight point win, the victory did not come as easy as it may have seemed. 

Trailing the entire game did not stop Bowling Green from making things interesting in the second half. They cut the one-time 14-point Huskie lead down to a two-point lead with just over 15 minutes to play. NIU would then answer with a 17-3 scoring run to get the lead back up to 16. Nutter added seven of his 18 total points during this crucial stretch. 

“They (Nutter’s teammates) always tell me to shoot the ball. ‘Nobody’s gonna get mad at you if you miss,’” Nutter said. “They always tell me, shoot with confidence, shoot with confidence. Everything I did today, I did it with confidence. I made sure I had the self-confidence to tell myself that nobody out here is going to stop me.”

Even after the big Huskie run, the Falcons would not bow down. Bowling Green made a run of their own to cut the lead back down to three with just under four minutes to play. Coit, who was having a relatively quiet game up until this point, answered right back for NIU. He hit three-pointers on three straight possessions to give the Huskies a nine point lead with two minutes left. 

“Those shots that Diggy (Coit) took are shots that we’ve seen him make over and over and over and over,” Burno said. “So it’s a trust factor, trust the process, live with the results. Miss or make, those were great shots.”

Nutter spoke highly of Coit’s clutch shooting and overall performance after the game.

“That’s my best friend, so whatever he does, whatever shot he takes, I always think it’s going in. Whenever he’s missing, I always tell him, you’re one of them, you’re built for this,” Nutter said. “I don’t care if he’s 0-for-100. Him shooting the ball and making those threes down the stretch was very big.” 


The Huskies remain in fifth place in the MAC standings. Their next game will be at home against the University of Ohio at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Convocation Center. 

“Ohio is big, come out. Please come out. These kids are playing extremely hard,” Burno said. “They’re doing it on both ends, meaning the classroom and the court. Please come out and support, we need it.”

Hunter believes that the Huskies have been hitting their stride lately with their recent hot streak.

“I think we’re peaking at the right time,” Hunter said. “We started slow this year but we’re coming into our own now. Close to March and tournament play, which is the perfect time.”

The Huskies will look to get their third straight win against the 12-11 Bobcats, who are 4-6 in conference play. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and will be available to listen to on The Varsity Network.