Huskies drop first MAC home game


Sophomore guard Justin Thomas shoots a 3-pointer in the Huskies’ 81-65 home loss Saturday to Miami University. Thomas finished with 14 points.

By Khobi Price

DeKALB — The men’s basketball team was unable to overcome the aggressive play of Miami University and fell to the RedHawks 81-65 Saturday for its first home conference loss of the season.

“We definitely got punched in the mouth,” said junior forward Lacey James. “We didn’t respond well. They came out more physical and ready to win.”

The loss by the Huskies (10-13, 3-7 Mid-American Conference) marks their third consecutive conference defeat. This is NIU’s worst record through its first 10 conference games of the season since the 2014-15 campaign.

NIU went scoreless for the first two minutes of the game and faced an 18-point deficit late in the first half. The Huskies shot 34.5 percent from the field and missed all six of their 3-point attempts in the opening half.

“Our defense wasn’t there,” said Head Coach Mark Montgomery. “We missed some tough shots early when the ball wouldn’t go in the basket. I think that affected our defense, and you can’t do that. If you aren’t scoring the ball, you still have to defend the ball, and we didn’t do that.”

NIU reduced the RedHawks’ 10-point halftime lead to seven within the first two minutes of the second half. Miami went on a 19-5 run midway through the second half and maintained the lead for the remainder of the game.

“I thought we closed the [first] half well.” Montgomery said. “We started pretty good in the second half, but Miami just shot the ball at a high percentage. Our defense just has to get better.”

Montgomery said he credits the RedHawks’ sense of urgency as a significant factor behind their victory.

“It seemed like Miami wanted it more,” Montgomery said. “I hate to say it like that, but they were the more aggressive team. A lot of times the more aggressive teams get more calls and balls kind of bounce their way.”

Sophomore guard Eugene German scored a season-low 10 points on 2-of-9 shooting. He committed four of the Huskies’ seven turnovers.

“They played great defense,” German said. “I just had an off night. They pressured me pretty well.”

Sophomore guard Justin Thomas scored a team-high 14 points on eight shots off the bench. This marked his highest scoring output since the Huskies’ matchup against the University of Iowa Hawkeyes Dec. 29.

“I just stayed poised,” Thomas said. “I didn’t let the pressure get to me. I took what the defense would give me.”

The Huskies will return to action against the MAC West Division leaders, the University of Toledo Rockets, 6 p.m. Tuesday in Toledo, Ohio.

“I think we have to get better the next two days in practice,” Montgomery said. “It’s a rival game, so our guys should be fired up to play. We need to get off to a better start, sustain it and show our guys we’re a good team.”