Huskies fall to Northern Kentucky in double overtime

By Michael Urbanec

Double-doubles from senior forwards Levi Bradley and Lacey James, and 24 points from returning senior guard Dante Thorpe were not enough to save the Huskies from an 88-85 double-overtime loss to Northern Kentucky Friday.

The pace slowed in the beginning, with many missed three-point opportunities turning into rebounds. NIU shot just 26 percent from three, while the Norse picked up on their miserable 2-12 first half to go 12-21 the rest of the game.

“We got to get in the gym, and we have to stop shooting off the dribble in distress,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “We need to make our threes.”

Senior Northern Kentucky and All-Horizon League forward Drew McDonald torched the Huskies from everywhere on the floor, totalling 28 points, 12 points coming by the three-ball. He also pulled in a game-high 14 rebounds and dished two assists.

“We definitely wanted to run McDonald off the line, but then he started going inside,” Montgomery said. “We had to double him in the post, and then he made the play of the game.”

The play in question came in the second overtime with the Huskies down by three following a turnover by junior guard Alize Travis. McDonald drove to the rim before dishing the ball to junior forward Dontez Walton, who drilled the shot despite shooting 25 percent from three last season.

The Huskies pulled within one point with 10 seconds to go, but the Norse hit their free throws and iced the game.

“They did a great job of adjusting to how we play defense,” Bradley said. “It threw us off our rhythm and out of shake, but we have faith in our defense and our system. It’s just one game; we need to get better.”

Montgomery said NIU achieved a lot despite the loss. Thorpe played his first game with the team since his Aug. 7 suspension for retail theft. His 24 points, four assists and four rebounds made him a key contributor in junior guard Eugene German’s absence.

“I put a lot of work in,” Thorpe said. “I’ve got so much confidence coming into this season. It’s just confidence.”

The Huskies’ ball movement suffered throughout the game. They only had 12 assists, and they turned the ball over 14 times. Once the Norse started pressing the Huskies back, the ball started flying all over the court, as the Norse also had 13 turnovers.

“With what [James] and [Bradley] gave us, I think we win that game,” Montgomery said. “It’s crazy that we didn’t. Some of the new rules were giving our guys extra fouls, and [junior forward Noah] McCarty was playing with a mask after breaking his nose in practice. We’re going to get our bigs going, and they’re going to be a big key to our success.”

Also making his return to the team was sophomore guard Zaire Mateen, who was suspended with Thorpe and German Oct. 24. Mateen scored six points in his 15 minutes on the floor, but he competed well on the defensive end, netting a clutch steal in overtime, leading to a score at the other end.

As for when German will be making his return, Montgomery said the situation will be re-evaluated later this week. He also urged the loss was not due to the missing German, but because the team didn’t get the stops when they mattered.

“We had some guys step up, and it wasn’t enough to win the game,” Montgomery said. “We have a lot of new pieces. We had Alize, Zaire and Key back, and it can shore some things up. Once we have a full deck, we’ll be very good.”

The Huskies’ next game is at 2 p.m. Saturday against The Illinois Tech at the Convocation Center.