Basketball picks up win against Western Illinois

James Krause

The men’s basketball team picked up their sixth win of the season Monday with a 91-76 victory over the Western Illinois Leathernecks.

In the school’s first meeting since 2008, senior forward Lacey James picked up his third career double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while senior forward Levi Bradley finished with 18 points.

Bradley said attacking the paint is a big part of the Huskies offense,  and it showed with NIU outscoring the Leathernecks 40-20 in the paint.

“I’d say [making people uncomfortable in the paint] is a pretty big factor,” Bradley said. “It’s one of our main principles. [Head] Coach [Mark] Montgomery trusts us enough to make the right decisions to be aggressive and score or kick it out for one of our teammates to score.”

Junior guard Eugene German led the Huskies in scoring with 20 points on four of six 3-point shooting, while WIU guard Kobe Webster led all scoring with 26. Senior guard Dante Thorpe added 14 points on a team-high 12 shots.

Related: Huskies couldn’t handle Butler

 

Montgomery said the game was nearly perfect, but mentioned turnovers and allowing offensive rebounds as some of the areas he wants to see his team improve on before Mid-American Conference play.

“Until you can play a perfect game for 40 minutes, there’s always going to be some things you can improve,” Montgomery said. “We can improve on our turnovers. They got a lot of long rebounds. I’d like to shut a team out where they get no offensive rebounds.”

NIU found themselves in a dog fight early following a 11-2 run from the Leathernecks giving WIU the lead. A pair of German free throws with 5:06 remaining in the first gave the Huskies the lead, which they held to the final buzzer.

Following a road loss to Dec. 8 road loss to Butler where the team allowed 95 points, Montgomery emphasized defense to his team.

“We’re scoring and shooting the ball at a high rate,” Montgomery said. “But our ceiling is going to be determined by how we lock in defensively and rebound.”

The Huskies outrebounded the Leathernecks 39-27 and held WIU to 40 percent shooting from the field.

Related: Huskies’ comeback falls short

With a rematch against the Northern Kentucky Norse on Thursday and another two non-conference games before MAC play, Montgomery said NIU has a chance to surprise some people.

“I think we have a high ceiling,” Montgomery said. “Everyone in our conference is going to be battle tested. You just have to win some games at home and survive on the road and keep getting better.”