Men’s basketball begins season with home-court opener against Northern Iowa


Senior guard Eugene German and redshirt senior forward Lacey James take a defensive position Tuesday during NIU’s 85-50 win against Roosevelt University at the Convocation Center.

By Jarrett Huff

DeKALB — Men’s basketball will host the University of Northern Iowa for its first game of the regular season 3 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center.

The teams last met Nov. 28, 2009, with UNI winning 52-45. NIU is 8-13 against UNI all-time. The Panthers come into this game with a record of 1-0 after a win Nov. 5, 2019, defeating Old Dominion University 58-53.

In their game against Old Dominion, the Panthers shot a combined 34.5% from the field. The team struggled converting three-point attempts, going 6-31 from behind the arc. Redshirt senior guard Spencer Haldeman and sophomore guard AJ Green led the team in scoring with 12 points each, while redshirt sophomore forward Austin Phyfe picked up a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards, along with two blocks and a steal.

Stopping Green and Haldeman is a point of emphasis for the team, according to Head Coach Mark Montgomery. He also wants the defense to limit UNI’s post touches in an attempt to neutralize Phyfe’s impact. 

“We have to keep Green from exploding,” Montgomery said. “We have to know Haldeman, [UNI’s] top three-point shooter, who took [14 shots] on Tuesday against Old Dominion. We have to be there on the catch.”

The Huskies come into this game following Tuesday’s 85-50 rout of the Roosevelt University Lakers in an exhibition match.

In the exhibition game against the Lakers, NIU senior guard Eugene German had a game-high with 19 points, shooting 70% from the field on 10 shots and 50% from behind the arc on six shots. Junior forward Chris Johnson led the team with 12 boards. The team had a stellar defensive performance in the first half, holding the Lakers to just 10 points on 12.9% shooting.

“I like the mentality that we took care of business in a game like Tuesday’s, getting us ready for the season,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery wants the team to take care of the basketball on offense and keeping the ball moving on the floor. While it’s a good strategy, it won’t matter if the team can’t make shots.

“We have to make some shots,” Montgomery said. “You can do all those things, but we [have to] see the ball go in the basket.”

NIU finished 17-17 last season, including 8-10 in Mid-American Conference play and a home record of 10-6. The Huskies made it as far as the 2019 MAC Tournament semifinals March 15, 2019, falling to Bowling Green State University 71-67 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland, Ohio.