Huskies’ comebacks fall short

By Khobi Price

Despite junior guard Eugene German recording a career-high 33 points and NIU closing out the game on a 22-9 run, the men’s basketball fell to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix 85-83 Wednesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Head Coach Mark Montgomery said the defense didn’t pick up enough stops for the Huskies (4-3) to claim the victory.

“[The defense] was nonexistent,” Montgomery said. “Early, we didn’t pressure those guys. We just have to check better. You can’t go on the road and allow 85 points and expect to win.”

The Phoenix went on a 24-7 run that spanned over 10 minutes of game time to take a 78-63 advantage for their largest lead of the game with 5:59 left in the contest.

NIU made a defensive audible by switching to a 1-3-1 zone defense and the alteration immediately paid off.

The Huskies forced three turnovers and four missed field goals during a run of their own to help them score 11 consecutive points to bring their deficit down to 78-74 with 1:31 left in the game. German scored seven of NIU’s 11 points during its run.

“They couldn’t score,” Montgomery said. “We just scored every time they missed and we ran. We just dug too big of a hole to come out of.”

Green Bay pushed its lead back up to eight before senior guard Dante Thorpe and senior forward Levi Bradley each scored a basket to reduce NIU’s deficit to 82-78 with 26 seconds left in the contest.

German fouled Green Bay first-year guard PJ Pipes to put him on the free-throw line with 23 seconds in the game.

Pipes knocked down both free-throws before German knocked down a 3-pointer with 21 seconds left in the contest. This bucket gave German his career-high in points and reduce NIU’s deficit to 84-81.

“German comes in every game in attack mode,” Montgomery said. “He was just trying to keep us in the game.

The Phoenix split a pair of free-throws before Bradley converted a putback layup after a sophomore guard Rod Henry-Hayes missed 3-point attempt to put the Huskies within two with three seconds left in the game. Green Bay dribbled out the rest of the clock to pull away with the win.

NIU shot over 50 percent from the field for the third consecutive game by making 37 of its 66 field goal attempts. Thorpe and Bradley each scored 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting for the contest.

The Huskies scored 44 points and made 60.6 percent of their field goal attempts in the first half. NIU turned the ball over on four of five possessions from 4:02 to 2:26 left in the half.

The turnovers helped the Phoenix turn the Huskies’ 39-37 lead into a 45-41 deficit and an eventual 47-44 halftime deficit.

Green Bay scored 28 points off NIU’s 16 turnovers.

“They were pressing and they were going for balls and steals, you got to be disciplined and strong with the ball,” Montgomery said. “We just weren’t strong with the ball today and it kind of cost us.”

After wrapping up their fourth game in six days, the Huskies will return to action against the University of California, Davis Aggies 7 p.m. Dec. 5 in the Convocation Center.

Montgomery said the team will be focusing on improving their defense with a week between the team’s next game.

“We’re going to teach we have to get multiple stops on the defensive end,” Montgomery said. “We have to get back in transition; our transition defense was bad.”