Huskies go 2-1 in Men Against Cancer Oakland Hoops Challenge

By Khobi Price

The men’s basketball team won two of its three contests in the Men Against Breast Cancer Oakland Hoops Challenge.

The Huskies (4-2) defeated the Oral Roberts University Golden Eagles 87-66 Friday, loss to the James Madison University Dukes 78-74 Saturday and picked up a 92-72 win against the Oakland University Golden Grizzlies Sunday in Rochester, Michigan.

“I thought we had a successful weekend,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “We won a big game the first night. It looked like we were about to win a second one and you lose a tough game right there at the end, it just shows the character and adversity our guys overcame less than 24 hours to beat Oakland who won its first two games. I’m just excited for this team because they put in a lot of work.”

Friday – Oral Roberts

NIU’s victory over the Golden Eagles was its first win against an NCAA Division 1 opponent of the 2018-19 season. The Huskies were in control for nearly the entirety of the contest; they led for 38:22 of the game.

Senior forward Levi Bradley scored eight points in the first 3:43 of the Huskies’ opening match to give NIU a 10-1 advantage with 16:59 left in the first half.

Junior guard Eugene German converted a lay-up with 15:58 left in the first half to give the Huskies a 12-3 lead before Oral Roberts rattled off an 11-0 run to take its first lead of the day, 14-12.

NIU retaliated with back-to-back German triples to regain its lead. German hit a free-throw and another 3-pointer to spark a 14-0 run to give the Huskies a 26-14 advantage with 8:54 left in the opening half.

The Golden Eagles reduced their deficit to three with 2:37 left in the first half, but NIU went on an 8-1 run to go up 44-34 heading into halftime.

Sophomore guard Rod Henry Hayes’s 3-pointer with 16:56 left in the second half gave the Huskies a 51-40 lead and jump-started a 22-3 run that spanned over seven minutes of game time.

NIU had a 70-43 advantage, its largest lead of the game, with 9:30 left in the contest. It forced eight turnovers, tallied seven assists and made nine of its 13 field goal attempts during the run.

“Our defense led the offense,” Montgomery said. “We got out in transition and we were really sharing the ball. It was just the unselfishness and sharing the ball.”

The Huskies shot 54.8 percent from the field in the second half and defeated the Golden Eagles by 21 for their first win of the tournament.

German tallied 30 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block in the victory. Bradley added 21 points, eight rebounds and four assists while senior guard Dante Thorpe and senior forward Jaylen Key each recorded nine points.

NIU shot 49 percent of the field, made 10 of its 23 3-point attempts and assisted on 23 of its 33 field goals in the game.

Saturday – James Madison

The Dukes outscored the Huskies 4-0 in the final 48 seconds of their contest to defeat NIU in its second game of the tournament.

With the Huskies trailing 74-72, Bradley nailed a jumper to tie the contest at 74 with 48 seconds left in the game.

James Madison knocked down a jumper with 17 seconds left in the game to gain a 76-74 advantage. German missed a 3-point attempt with 11 seconds in the contest before the Dukes knocked down two free throws to ice the game.

German scored a team-high 17 points, senior forward Lacey James tallied 15 points and sophomore Gairges Daow recorded nine points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting from the field.

NIU shot over 50 percent from the field and made seven of its 15 3-point attempts, but James Madison shot 48 percent from the field, 46 percent from beyond the arc and only missed one of its 17 free-throw attempts.

The contest featured 11 ties and nine lead changes.

“We just didn’t close it out,” Montgomery said. “We are in control of the game and I thought we didn’t get the possessions, especially on offense, that it was going to take to win that game. When you want to close out a team, it’s going to have to be on the defensive end and our defense let us down against James Madison. Give them credit, they made plays.”

Sunday – Oakland

Bradley scored a career-high 30 points and shot a perfect 13-of-13 from the field, including 4-of-4 from beyond the arc, to help propel the Huskies to a 20-point victory over the Golden Grizzlies.

“Levi was just very aggressive at the beginning of the game,” Montgomery said. “He just didn’t force anything. You go 13-of-13 and you make all of your 3-pointers, it’s the best performance I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”

NIU took a 23-11 lead with 10:45 to play in the opening half after sophomore guard Zaire Mateen dished out a couple of assists for a freshman forward Austin Richie 3-pointer and junior forward Noah McCarty lay-up.

Mateen and Richie both scored to give the Huskies a 27-12 advantage with 8:56 left in the half before the Golden Grizzlies’ offense founds their rhythm and made 12 consecutive shots, including seven 3-pointers, to reduce the Huskies lead to 45-44 going into halftime.

NIU locked down defensively for the final 20 minutes of the contest. The Huskies held Oakland to 30 percent shooting from the field and 27.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc to outscore the Golden Grizzlies 48-27 in the second half.

NIU shot 66.1 percent, went 11-of-18 from beyond the arc, and tallied 23 assists to only eight turnovers in the win versus Oakland.

German scored 20 points, Thorpe tallied nine points and seven assists, Henry-Hayes recorded eight points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field and James contributed eight points and a team-high 12 rebounds.

“They got hot in the first half,” Montgomery said. “Our defense was really good early, and then they started making some shots and had a lot of momentum going into halftime. The second half, started [like the first half] our defense just locked them down and we got out in transition. It was just overall an unbelievable effort.”

Bradley and German were named to the Oakland Hoops Challenge All-Tournament Team. Bradley averaged 20.0 points per game in the tournament and shot 67.6 percent and 60 percent from beyond the arc.

German averaged 22.3 points and 3.7 assists per game in the tournament. He shot 52.2 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from 3-point range.

NIU averaged 84.3 points per game, shot 55.1% from the field, made 50% of its 3-pointers and dished out 20.7 assists per game in its three tournament contests.

The Huskies will conclude their road trip with a matchup against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix 7 p.m. Wednesday in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“At the news conference, I said I wanted us to establish ourselves on the road,” Montgomery said. “Winning two on a neutral floor, that’s a start. Now we have a big road test on Wednesday. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum and get back-to-back wins, that’ll be big for us.”