Men’s hoops dominates opener

By Julian Nunnery

After Friday’s game against St. Francis was postponed because of condensation on the court, the men’s basketball team was finally able to kick off its season against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix. The Huskies ran up the score in the second half, winning the game 85-65.

{{tncms-inline account=”SeanTFrazier” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Congrats <a href="">@GoHuskiesMBB</a> Great start! Forward <a href="">#NIU</a> <a href=""></a></p>— Sean T. Frazier (@SeanTFrazier) <a href="">November 15, 2017</a></blockquote>” id=”930672144845033472″ type=”twitter”}}

The team was led by junior forward Levi Bradley, who finished with a career-high and an efficient 28 points, making 10 of his 14 field goal attempts. Bradley had a huge mid-game turnaround, as he scored 22 of his points in the second half.

“I just stayed aggressive,” Bradley said. “When I got in the locker room [at halftime], my teammates told me to just keep playing. I just tried to stay aggressive and make the right play.” Bradley also shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the free-throw line and snagged eight rebounds.

{{tncms-inline account=”TopShelf_NIU” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">PSA: When <a href="">@levibradley32</a> drives to the lane do not, we repeat, DO NOT JUMP!!! <a href="">#TSSTopPlay</a> <a href=""></a></p>— Top Shelf Sports (@TopShelf_NIU) <a href="">November 15, 2017</a></blockquote>” id=”930656237183799296″ type=”twitter”}}

NIU got out to a double-digit lead by halftime, as it headed into the break leading 42-29. Sophomore guard Eugene German led the first half surge as he finished with 21 points, 16 of which he scored in the first half. German also pulled down a career-high nine rebounds and shot a team-high 11 free throws.

Junior forward Lacey James posted a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass.

This was the first official game with the team for James, as he was forced to sit out all of last season because of NCAA transfer rules.

“Sitting out last year, I learned a lot,” James said. “This game just felt good. I’ve been in the gym all summer getting ready for these moments. To have the opportunity to play with these guys is a lot of fun.”

The Phoenix were able to cut the lead down to just three points, as the Huskies led 51-48 with just under 12 minutes left to play in the second half. NIU quickly responded and regained momentum, pushing the lead back up to 10 points after a transition dunk by Bradley put them up 59-49.

Junior forward Dante Thorpe also had an efficient night, shooting 5-for-7 for 14 points and adding four rebounds.

{{tncms-inline account=”coachcarlsen” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="">#sharetheW</a> <a href=""></a></p>— Lisa Carlsen (@coachcarlsen) <a href="">November 15, 2017</a></blockquote>” id=”930645189412163584″ type=”twitter”}}

Assists were hard to come by as the Huskies ended up shooting 33 free throws. Sophomore guard Justin Thomas led the team with two assists to go along with eight points and five rebounds.

Although he understands there’s a lot of room for improvement, Head Coach Mark Montgomery was pleased with his team’s performance, particularly in the first half.

“I thought we came out strong in the first half,” Montgomery said. “We were in a good rhythm. The ball was moving. We had multiple players scoring the basketball. I thought our guys played hard, they came out with great energy.”

Montgomery was a bit more critical of his team on the defensive end, stressing the importance of defending without committing fouls.

“If we take anything from the game, we just have to defend without fouling,” Montgomery said. “I like when we get to the foul line, but we put them on the line a little bit too much tonight.”

NIU had four players who scored in double digits, as they cruised to an even 20-point victory in their home opener.

The Huskies game against St. Francis has been rescheduled to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Convocation Center.