Huskies trounce Eastern Michigan on senior day


Tim Dodge

Eastern Michigan sophomore guard Emoni Bates (21) approaches NIU sophomore guard Zarique Nutter (2) as he passes the ball down the court during the afternoon game on Friday at the NIU Convocation Center. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

By Ethan Gonzales, Sports Editor

DeKALB – Five Huskies scored in double digits to push NIU men’s basketball past Eastern Michigan University with an 85-66 senior day victory.

NIU honored four seniors in Friday’s contest. Senior guards Drew Wiemers, Kaleb Thornton and Darweshi Hunter were recognized, along with senior forward Anthony Crump.

Sophomore guard Zarique Nutter, junior forward Harvin Ibarguen, Crump, Thornton and Hunter all scored in double digits for the Huskies for a combined 71 points.

“When we’re playing well, the ball moves and we have balance,” NIU men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno said. “Five guys in double figures? You take that all day long. We’re gonna need that when we get down to Cleveland on Thursday.”

Thornton had a stellar performance in his last home game at the Convocation Center, as he recorded 17 points, six rebounds and 11 assists. Thornton gave credit to his supporting cast of friends and family present on Friday and throughout his journey at NIU.

“All those people that were back there, they pretty much pushed to this point I’m at now,” Thornton said. “As much as senior night is for me, it’s for everybody that helped me. It meant a lot to me to go out there, have a good senior night and get a win.”

Nutter finished with a team-high 19 points and added four rebounds and two assists. Crump finished with 10 points, Hunter had 13 points and Ibarguen finished with 12 points on 6-for-6 shooting.

The Huskies dominated the painted area Friday, out-scoring the Eagles 48-30 in the paint and outrebounding Eastern Michigan 42-28.


The Huskies faced Eastern Michigan sophomore forward Emoni Bates, the second leading scorer in the Mid-American Conference. Bates is averaging 19.7 points per game but finished with just six points on 3-of-14 shooting and 0-6 from three.

Bates did not score in the first half, shooting 0-6 from the field and 0-4 from three-point range.

Nutter, who was Bates’ primary defender, did not believe that guarding Bates was a daunting task.

“It wasn’t no pressure behind guarding him,” Nutter said. “I did it before, I felt like I could do it again. But you know, he’s a very good player, and I respect him, and I just came in and did what I had to do, what they (the coaching staff) were expecting me to do.”

Bates appeared to take out his frustrations on NIU fans after failing to stop a buzzer-beating jump shot from sophomore guard David Coit to end the first half. NIU fans, who were sitting courtside, were apparently heckling Bates after the play. The fans were asked to move higher in the stands after the incident.


Hunter and Nutter started off hot for the Huskies as both players combined for 21 of the Huskies’ 37 first-half points. Nutter shot 4-for-6 from the field with two threes, while Hunter shot 4-for-8 with two threes as well. 

NIU led Eastern Michigan at halftime 37-25. The Huskies shot 48% from the field and 50% from three in the first half.

The second half began with back-to-back threes from Hunter and Thornton to balloon NIU’s lead to 18. The Huskies continued to build on their lead in the final 20 minutes, leading by as much as 23.

“It was a great performance from start to finish,” Burno said. “I think we led (Eastern Michigan) almost 39 minutes. I think going into Cleveland, I think we’re going to be a team that can get some wins if we do the things that we’re capable of.”

NIU shot 63% in the second half, finishing the game with a 56.5% field goal percentage. The efficient shooting performance came largely thanks to the ball movement from the Huskies’ offense. NIU compiled 23 assists as a team – 11 from Thornton.


The Huskies will move on to play in the MAC Tournament quarterfinals starting Thursday in Cleveland, Ohio. Times for tournament games have yet to be determined, as teams around the MAC are finishing their 2022-2023 regular season on Friday night.