Men’s basketball loses big to Eagles

By Julian Nunnery

DeKalb — The men’s basketball team (12-17, 5-11 Mid American Conference) fell 82-53 Saturday on the road to the Eastern Michigan University Eagles, who had an efficient offensive performance. The Eagles shot 55 percent from the field, nearly 88 percent from the free-throw line and connected on 9-of-22 of their 3-point attempts.

NIU came out of the gates as the aggressors, as they went on a 6-0 run to start off the game.

Eastern Michigan picked things up quickly, as they immediately responded with a 18-2 run of their own. NIU maintained striking distance in the first half as they trailed 31-23 at the break.

“In the first half, we were getting the ball inside,” said Head Coach Mark Montgomery. “We had some patience on offense, and we were getting defensive stops.”

The Eagles exploded right out of the gates in the second half as they opened with an 8-0 run. From that point forward, the Huskies could not get themselves back into the game.

Eastern Michigan held a 35-point lead, 75-40, and coasted to a 29-point victory at the Convocation Center.

Beyond just efficient shooting, the Eagles also stifled NIU on the defensive end, playing an extended 2-3 zone for the majority of the game.

Montgomery said a majority of the Huskies’ turnovers were a result of the Eagles’ effort defensively.

“The zone caused turnovers, which allowed them to get out in transition,” Montgomery said. “Eastern Michigan beat us in transition today. When you look at the fastbreak points, they beat us 24-2. Our turnovers led to them getting uncontested dunks and layups, and you can’t have that.”

The Huskies’ two leading scorers, sophomore guard Eugene German and junior forward Levi Bradley, both struggled shooting the ball. German led the team in scoring with 16 points but only shot 5-of-15 from the field. German also pulled in a team-high seven rebounds.

Bradley finished with eight points and four rebounds but only managed to shoot 3-of-11 from the field. Montgomery said it’s hard to compete when your two leading scorers have tough shooting games.

“It’s no secret that we need Bradley and German to score points for us to be in ball games or at least have a chance to win,” Montgomery said. “So if they struggle, that means someone else has to pick them up, or we’re going to struggle.”

Sophomore forward Noah McCarty had a productive game off the bench as the only other player to score double-digits. McCarty finished with 11 points, two rebounds, an assist and recorded the teams only block of the game.

“McCarty came in aggressive,” Montgomery said. “He made a couple one-on-one moves inside to score and got to the foul line four times. He gave us a lift.”

NIU has two home games left against tough conference opponents in the University of Toledo Rockets and the Ball State Cardinals before the MAC tournament begins March 5. Montgomery said he is excited that his team will close out the season at home and knows he won’t have to provide much extra motivation to get the team to play hard.

“We’re looking forward to getting home and regrouping,” Montgomery said. “We’re playing two of the better teams in the conference, so it’s not going to be that tough to get our guys back up to play Toledo and Ball State — two teams that beat us. We still have a chance to move up in the standings, so we still have a lot to play for.”

The Huskies will face Toledo 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Convocation Center.