Men’s basketball snags home win

By Khobi Price

DeKALB — The men’s basketball team returned to the court Saturday with a 61-55 home victory over the Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils at the Convocation Center.

The Huskies (6-4) closed out a competitive game despite having shot 61 percent from the free-throw line, being outscored in the second half and having allowed the Blue Devils to cut their 16-point lead to three.

NIU was forced to break their streak of nine games with the same starting lineup because of a minor foot injury to junior guard Dante Thorpe. Freshman forward Gairges Daow replaced Thorpe in the starting lineup and contributed four points, two assists and one steal in his season-high 31 minutes of play.

“We like the energy [Daow] brings on defense,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “If you asked him he probably wished he knocked down a few more shots, but he [played good defense]. I still like the direction he’s headed.”

The Huskies tallied the first points of the contest when junior forward Levi Bradley, who tallied 16 points, nine rebounds and one technical foul after a scuffle in the first half, knocked down a jump shot on the opening possession of the game.

NIU shot 50 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from beyond the arc and held the Blue Devils 10 percent from behind the arc and 38.5 percent shooting from the field. The Huskies forced 10 turnovers to take an 11-point advantage in the first half.

The Huskies lead grew to 16 with 14:45 left in the second half, but Central Connecticut went on an 11-0 run to cut the lead to five with 11:03 left in the second half.

“As coaches you warn them, they’re only a couple shots from getting right back into the game,” Montgomery said. “When they cut it [to five] after that kid made back-to-back [3-pointers], we’re like here you go.”

The Blue Devils remained in striking distance for the rest of the half and brought the lead down to three with 1:19 left to go in the contest.

“[We were looking] to get a stop,” said sophomore guard Eugene German, who recorded a team-high 19 points. “We needed a stop. We needed to come down and execute on the offensive end.”

The stop occurred when sophomore forward Noah McCarty stole the ball with 30 seconds left in the game.

“Noah McCarty probably made the play of the game [with] that steal,” Montgomery said. “I don’t know why he tried to throw it off the kid, but hey, we came up with the ball.”

Bradley iced the game with three free throws in the last 18 seconds of play.

“The most important thing is we won the game,” Montgomery said. “We had a big lead, watched it dissolve and we found a way to hang on. I’m happy we closed out a close game.”

The Huskies will return to action 6 p.m. Dec. 18 in Milwaukee against the Marquette University Golden Eagles.