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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Huskies slip past RedHawks, win second straight

NIU wins first road game in 73 days
Tim Dodge
NIU junior guard Zarique Nutter (2) shoots a free throw after a personal foul from Toledo’s redshirt freshman forward Javan Simmons on Jan. 23. Nutter finished with 22 points in a win over Miami University Tuesday. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Clutch shot-making and a dominant defensive effort helped NIU men’s basketball (8-14, 2-8 MAC) hold on for a nail-biting 62-59 victory over the Miami University RedHawks (11-12, 5-6 MAC) Tuesday.

The Huskies racked up 8 steals and 3 blocks, while holding Miami to 35.2% shooting to win their second consecutive game. On the offensive side, the Huskies knocked down 86.7% of their free throws.

“Our defense was a lot better,” said NIU men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno. “If you look at what they started, I think they were almost 67% from the field and 100% from three. We got the numbers down to 35 (percent) and 37 (percent).”

The Huskies’ victory in Oxford marked their first win away from the Convocation Center since they defeated DePaul University on Nov. 25. 

Only five Huskies scored in Tuesday’s win over Miami. Junior guard Zarique Nutter scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. 

“We know we’re a good team, we know we got the pieces,” Nutter said. “We know we’re one of the best teams in this league, we just started off late.”

Junior guard David Coit was not far behind Nutter, finishing with 21 points and 5 rebounds. Coit knocked down 3 three-pointers to lead the Huskies.

“I think we just have to keep staying together, keep playing hard and keep playing for each other,” Coit said. “We’re going to do whatever we have to do to win.”


Despite falling behind 27-18 in the first half, the Huskies closed the first half on a 12-4 run to cut Miami’s lead to 31-30 entering halftime.

The Huskies survived a blazing start from the RedHawks, as Miami knocked down its first six three-point attempts of the game. NIU won the first-half rebounding battle by nine to help them stay in the game.

Coit and Nutter combined for 21 of the Huskies’ 30 first-half points but it was freshman guard Will Lovings-Watts who helped the Huskies claw back into the game at the end of the first half. 

Lovings-Watts came up with two steals and two dunks to give the Huskies momentum heading into the break. For the second straight game, the freshman was a spark plug off the bench for NIU.

“Will’s a great player,” Nutter said. “I always tell him to keep his head up and keep staying the course. So what he did today didn’t really surprise me because I know what he’s capable of and I tell him that all the time.”


In a second half that saw 5 lead changes and 5 ties, the Huskies once again leaned on their leading scorer, Coit, who scored 10 second-half points. NIU’s second leading scorer, Nutter, scored 12 second-half points.

The Huskies knocked down 12 of their 14 free throw attempts in the second half, helping them secure the win in a back-and-forth game. 

“Huge (converting at the free throw line), especially in close games, it’s about the little things,” Coit said. “Rebounding, crucial stops, good shots.” 

With the Huskies up 60-59 with five seconds remaining, Lovings-Watts once again came up clutch for the Huskies.

After being fouled, the 6-foot-5-inch guard knocked down both free throws to put the Huskies’ up 62-59. On the ensuing possession, Lovings-Watts snagged his third steal on the RedHawks inbound pass, sealing the win for the Huskies.

“Wil Lovings-Watts is a freshman and his last 40 minutes have been phenomenal,” Burno said. “He had 18 (points) the other night, he was one of the catalysts for that win. Then he comes down, pressure situation up one on the road, he bangs two free throws.”


The Huskies’ next game will be a part of the MAC vs Sun Belt Conference Challenge at 2 p.m. Saturday in Mobile, Alabama against the University of South Alabama. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and live stats will be available via StatBroadcast.

“Early in the season when we had the 5-1 start, I feel like everybody’s back on that same page,” Nutter said. “Now we’re all just putting the pieces together as a puzzle. It’s been a puzzle and now it’s a domino effect, we’re all in a row. We’re all going to fall together, we’re all going to stand tall together.”

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