Bench players provide spark in Huskies’ win against Longwood

By Mike Knapp

DeKALB — Life is better when things are in balance.

The men’s basketball team lived that example Monday against Longwood University at the Convocation Center. Playing for the third time in four nights, NIU had four players score in the double digits and got 29 points off the bench to dispatch the Lancers, 65-48.

After dropping their first two games of the season, the win was the third in a row for the Huskies. With the win against the Lancers, NIU held a Division I team below 50 points for the first time since December 20, 2016, when it locked the University of South Florida to 48 points.

The bench players made their impact known early on in the game. With the game tied at 9-all at the first media timeout, the Huskies came out of the break and responded with a 13-1 run over a five-minute span to move the lead to 22-10.

“It was a close game, and we brought five fresh players in,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “They came out and gave us an unbelievable spurt to break the game open.”

Sophomore guard Darius Beane, who led the Huskies with a team-high 14 points, had four points in that run. The Huskies used that short burst to finish the half with a 34-24 advantage.

The defense was a key factor as well, as the Huskies held Longwood to 26% shooting in the first half and 28% for the game. The Huskies also owned a 47-30 edge in rebounding, grabbing more than 45 boards for the third straight game.

Redshirt senior forward Lacey James picked up a game-high 11 boards, scoring 10 points to notch his seventh career double-double.

“The coaches preach [rebounding] every day in practice,” James said. “It’s all about toughness. Rebounding isn’t a skill; it’s just one of those things you have to want to do. I think every day this season we’ve tried to be tougher because when you win the rebounding battle you have a chance to win the game.”

The lead stretched as high as 19 points twice in the second half, both times coming on 3-point shots by senior forward Noah McCarty. After making just seven of 26 three-point shots last season, McCarty was 2-for-3 Monday, on his way to 10 points off the bench. He also grabbed 10 rebounds to notch his second career double-double.

Senior guard Eugene German added 12 points and four assists to round out Huskies who scored double-figures.

Eight Huskies played at least 10 minutes in the game, and eight of the 11 players who appeared in the game scored.

“When you can put four guys in double figures and hold [an opponent] below 30% shooting on both twos and threes, you give yourself a great chance to win,” Montgomery said. “I was very proud of the guys; this was a one-day turnaround between games, and we had to figure out a team that plays 10 different players.”

After three home games in four days, the Huskies travel to Macomb to play Western Illinois University.

Tip off will be 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Western Hall.