Huskies handle Broncos at home

By Khobi Price

DeKALB — A 7-0 run by the men’s basketball team in the closing seconds of the game propelled NIU to a 75-67 victory Saturday over the Western Michigan University Broncos in the Convocation Center.

“I thought we closed out on the defensive end,” said Head Coach Mark Montgomery. “We got stops, we got to the free-throw line, we broke their press and made some key plays down the stretch. We made some mental mistakes, but we still did enough to win the game.”

NIU held its opponent to under 70 points for the first time since its Jan. 13 win against the Eastern Michigan University Eagles. The Huskies (12-15, 5-9 Mid-American Conference) have a 10-1 record when opponents to 70 points or less.

“I think we kind of out-toughed them in the second half,” Montgomery said. “We were very efficient offensively. It was one of those games where there wasn’t going to be a lot of separation; you have two teams that really want to lock-in defensively.”

The Huskies scored 48 points, shot 61.5 percent from the field, made 40 percent of their 3-pointers and notched 80 percent of their free-throw attempts in the second half. NIU held Western Michigan to 36 points, 39.3 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent shooting from beyond the arc in the second half.

NIU had a 54-52 lead with 6:23 left in the half. The Huskies went on a 9-0 run and took their first double-digit lead of the contest. The Broncos reduced their deficit to three points with less than a minute left in the game, but NIU closed out the game with seven consecutive points.

“We told each other not to panic,” said sophomore guard Justin Thomas. “[We told each other] to stay the course and stay poised, especially when they put the press on us to not turn the ball over.”

Sophomore guard Eugene German scored a career-high 31 points on 11-of-22 shooting from the field and 3-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. It was his second 30-point game of his collegiate career.

Junior forward Levi Bradley added 21 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc and made all nine of his free-throw attempts.

German and Thomas slowed down Broncos senior guard Thomas Wilder, the second leading scorer in the MAC behind German. They forced him to miss 12 of his 17 field goal attempts.

“Thomas Wilder is a great player, so we knew we had to key in on him,” German said. “Throughout practice we talked about him a lot because he’s their key player. We just did our best and what we had to do.”

The Huskies will return to action against the Ball State University Cardinals 6 p.m. Tuesday in Muncie, Indiana.