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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Huskies survive Bulls for third straight conference victory

Ryanne Sandifer
Junior guard Zarique Nutter (2) shoots a jump hook as Buffalo senior forward Isaiah Adams (3) attempts to block the shot. Nutter led the team in rebounds, accounting for 12 of the team’s total 39. (Ryanne Sandifer | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Without the services of leading scorer junior guard David Coit, a short-handed NIU men’s basketball team (9-15, 3-8 MAC) snuck past the University at Buffalo Bulls (3-21, 1-10 MAC) 72-68 Tuesday.

Despite missing four rotational players due to injury, junior guard Zarique Nutter and sophomore forward Xavier Amos led the Huskies to their third win in four games. Amos led all scorers with 25 points and Nutter posted a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. 

“We had high expectations going into the year and we stumbled,” said NIU men’s basketball head coach Rashon Burno. “We didn’t have a good December or January but these guys didn’t break, they didn’t blame, they didn’t point fingers, they stayed together. The games are going to be played so you might as well go out and compete the right way and try to play for each other. I think we’re doing that over the last three or four games.”

The Huskies shot a subpar 43.6% from the field and a brutal 55.2% from the free throw line but picked up the slack on the other end of the court. NIU’s defense racked up 6 blocks and 5 steals to help close out a back-and-forth win. 

“Those (forced turnovers) are really big because it got us in transition,” Amos said. “I feel like we’re best when we’re in transition and getting Riq (Nutter) out in the open floor.”


With Coit out of the lineup, the Huskies needed someone to shoulder the scoring load. Amos was up to the task, leading the team in scoring and draining 3 three-pointers. 

“I saw that they couldn’t stop X (Amos),” Nutter said. “I always tell X he’s the best sophomore in the conference, maybe the state, country. I just said ‘I’m going to give X the ball’ and he executed every time we gave him the ball.”

Amos was the go-to guy down the stretch of a tight knit game, as he scored 13 points in the second half. Amos scored 5 points in the final two minutes to put the Bulls away.

“When I got the job, he (Amos) was a priority because I thought his talent was a program changer for us,” Burno said. “He’s still young in his development, he’s still learning how good he is and what is required for him to reach the height of his talents. That’s a process with him, but on an average night he’s a really good player because he’s a matchup nightmare.”


After starting conference play 0-8, the Huskies have played a much stronger brand of basketball, winning three straight games against MAC foes.

“At the end of the day, the trust is different than it was a couple weeks ago,” Burno said. “I thought on that horrible stretch everyone wanted to be the hero and get it all back at once. And that brought us further and further away from what we needed to do. Now we’re desperate, we have to play the right way. We have no choice, every game matters. Our margin of error is slim.”

In addition to top scorers like Amos and Nutter, NIU’s role players have played better during the Huskies’ recent surge. 

“Players who needed to step up, stepped up,” Burno said. “Whether it was (freshman guard) Will Lovings-Watts, Xavier (Amos), (sophomore forward) Yanic (Konan Niederhauser) had some huge blocks and big time rebounds, Nutter made some great plays. And (redshirt sophomore guard) Zion Russell played 39 minutes, two assists, no turnovers which is huge.”


The Huskies’ next game will be against Kent State University at 1 p.m. Saturday in Kent, Ohio. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and live stats will be available via SIDEARM Stats

“I’m hoping we’ll get two bodies back in the next 48 hours going into Kent (State),” Burno said. “That will obviously give us a tremendous boost not just with numbers but with energy.”

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