Montgomery picks up 100th career win as Huskies down Ohio

By Khobi Price

The men’s basketball team defeated the Ohio Bobcats 71-60 Tuesday at the Convocation Center for Head Coach Mark Montgomery’s 100th career win. He became the fourth head coach in NIU history to reach 100 wins.

“I guess it’s some longevity, I’ve been here forever. I never really look at wins or losses, I just look at making the team better,” Montgomery said. “I guess I gotta thank God for my health, being around for a long time. It’s special, hopefully we got 100 more in us.”

After combining for seven points and three assists on 3-8 shooting in the first half, senior guard Dante Thorpe and junior guard Eugene German tallied 28 points and six assists on 7-11 shooting in the second half.

Their contributions helped the Huskies outscore Ohio 22-10 in the final seven minutes and lead NIU to victory.

“The second time around, both teams know each other and it was one of those grinders,” Montgomery said. “Defenses were stingy both ways, I just thought we made some plays down the stretch to extend the lead. Credit our defense in the second half, [Ohio] only shot 28 percent. This was all [about] the defensive effort today, and that’s what it’s going to take to win games.”

The Huskies played the Bobcats to a tie at 31 in the first half. Both teams shot 43 percent from the field, made three 3-pointers and turned the ball over five or less times at the break.

Related: Huskies lose a thriller to Akron

The Huskies’ biggest advantage in the opening half came from their bench play; their bench unit outscored Ohio’s 14-5 going into halftime.

“Our third key of the game was bench play,” Montgomery said. “As I tell the guys, the more you show in the game and the more it’s a positive, you’re going to get more minutes. Our depth is a strength and I thought it came in handy today.”

Neither team led by more than two through the first 13 minutes of the second half. German assisted Thorpe for a 3-pointer that ignited a 17-7 run with Thorpe scoring 11.

Thorpe finished the game with 20 points on 5-6 shooting from the field, 4-4 on 3-pointers and 6-6 on free-throws.

“[Thorpe] likes his drive, he’s one of the top field goal shooters in the conference,” Montgomery said. “When he gets a catch-and-shoot shot, he practices it every day, he’s capable. Today, that was the shot that was given. They were kind of playing off of him. He knocked down rhythm jump shots. I think he’s a two-way player, as in he can drive which he’s very efficient, but he can also catch-and-shoot, which you saw today.”

German assisted Thorpe for his 13th point of the game to put NIU up 57-51 with 5:22 remaining in the contest. German finished with a season-high six assists to go along with 15 points and four rebounds.

Related: Huskies shock No. 14 Buffalo

“All week we were talking about how Ohio rallied to the ball,” German said. “I was kicking out and found Thorpe a lot. Somehow, he just stayed open so I found him and he made shots tonight. There’s no assists without the shot.”

The Huskies, with a 12-9 overall and 5-3 MAC record, will continue their three-game homestead 2 p.m. Saturday against the Toledo Rockets in the Convocation Center.