Huskies fly past Eagles at home


Junior guard Dante Thorpe dribbles to the lane in the Huskies’ 72-66 home win Saturday over Eastern Michigan. Thorpe finished with five points and six assists in the game.

By Khobi Price

DeKALB — An and-one layup from junior forward Lacey James with 17 seconds left propelled the men’s basketball team to a 72-66 victory over the Eastern Michigan University Eagles Saturday at the Convocation Center.

The win by the Huskies (9-8, 2-2 Mid-American Conference) marked their first win of the season after trailing at halftime.

After being down 16-8 to start the first half, NIU went on a 14-3 run to give it a three-point lead before trailing 33-27 at halftime.

Sophomore guard Eugene German, who had a game-high 26 points, shot 9-of-16 from the field and made a career-high five 3-pointers, credited the Eagles’ zone defense for slowing them down in the first half.

“That’s a very tough zone,” German said. “We just had to stay patient. We had to find the open seams, find the open man and we’d be alright.”

NIU regained momentum and went on a 14-4 run to open up the second half.

“The energy to start the second half dictated how we were going to play,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “We started with four or five straight stops, got our transition game going, and then we got a comfortable lead.”

Sophomore guard Justin Thomas contributed 11 points and shot 5-of-8 off the bench.

Thomas was the main catalyst in the Huskies’ 7-0 run, which increased their lead from two to nine.

“Every day I come in and always stay ready,” Thomas said. “I’m always getting extra reps up, just trying to stay ready when my number is called. It all just came second nature tonight.”

He scored back-to-back two-point baskets midway through the second half before stealing the ball on an Eastern Michigan inbound pass and dishing an assist to junior forward Levi Bradley for an and-one layup.

“When I got the steal I dribbled out because I was in traffic,” Thomas said. “I dribbled back in, and I saw Levi out of my peripheral. I launched it to him, and he caught it. I knew I was going to throw it before it all happened.”

NIU made five 3-pointers, three by German, in the final seven minutes of play and didn’t relinquish the lead for the rest of the game.

“We made some huge 3-point shots when we needed them,” Montgomery said. “I’m still trying to figure out how Eugene German made the one with four seconds on the shot clock in the deep corner. That’s why you have to say your prayers at night and live right.”

NIU will return to action 6 p.m. Tuesday in Buffalo against the University at Buffalo Bulls.