Rockets blast by Huskies

By Julian Nunnery

DeKALB — A spirited second half effort was not enough for the men’s basketball team Tuesday as it lost 82-77 to the University of Toledo Rockets.

“I always thought we were in striking distance,” said Head Coach Mark Montgomery. “The tough thing about the second half is that we gave up a five-point play and a four-point play, and those are hard to get back.”

It was a tale of two halves, as the Huskies (10-14, 3-8 Mid American Conference) couldn’t quite pull off a win against the Rockets in a game that had several lead changes.

In what is now its fourth loss in a row, NIU once again got off to a considerably slow start. The team took a big hit when junior guard Dante Thorpe suffered a serious injury to his previously aggravated left shoulder only five minutes into the game.

“Thorpe hurt his shoulder before the Miami game,” Montgomery said. “He just toughed it out and played that game. But in this game, he hurt his shoulder five minutes into the game. His status for Saturday is a game time decision. We’re day to day.”

Montgomery said the team will continue to evaluate him and make sure he gets proper treatment in the post-season.

“Right now it’s real loose,” Montgomery said. “We just have to wait and probably get some X-rays and look at it one more time. It popped out of place last week. He’s going to have to have surgery at the end of the season.”

The Huskies drew first blood on a layup from junior forward Lacey James but quickly found themselves in a double-digit hole, down 20-10 about halfway through the first half.

NIU continued its sluggish play for the remainder of the half as they trailed 40-28 at the break.

However, the Huskies looked like a whole new team when they hit the court for the second half. NIU put together a 16-4 run right out of the gate to tie the game at 44 less than seven minutes into the half.

The Huskies held a five-point lead at 56-51 with about 10 minutes left in the game and looked like they may extend their lead and pull off the upset.

However, the Rockets had an answer for every time the Huskies looked like they might be able to create some separation.

The Huskies had a chance to tie the game when they possessed the ball, trailing 80-77 with 12 seconds left to play. Unfortunately, a missed 3-point attempt from sophomore guard Eugene German and two game-clinching free throws sealed the victory for Toledo.

German had game-highs in points with 30 and rebounds with eight. Junior forward Levi Bradley had another efficient night, scoring 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting from the field and shooting 3-for-3 at the free throw line.

Although NIU came up short in what was a nail-biting game, Montgomery said he believes his team can use this game as a building block for the rest of its season.

“If we just take the energy and effort we showed today on the defensive end, we’ll get some positive results,” Montgomery said. “With this team we just have to stay focused, keep believing in each other, don’t worry about our record right now and just keep playing good basketball.”

The Huskies will return home for their next game in a rematch against the University at Buffalo Bulls 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center.