Men’s basketball struggles on Senior Night

Senior center Marin Maric (Center) stands with his family, Head Coach Mark Montgomery and others before Tuesday’s Senior Night game at the Convocation Center. Maric had 18 points and 12 rebounds in his final game in DeKalb.

By Tom Burton

DeKALB — Men’s basketball began the second half of Tuesday’s game on an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to two points, but the Western Michigan University Broncos held off the comeback attempt and won, 84-68, on Senior Night in the Convocation Center.

NIU honored its two seniors, center Marin Maric and forward Aaric Armstead, before the game. Head Coach Mark Montgomery became emotional when talking about his two seniors who played their last game at the Convocation Center.

“I don’t know if there is only one [favorite] moment [of mine] because so much is racing through my head,” Montgomery said. “Those guys are great teammates because they practice hard and have had no problems off the court.”

In Armstead and Maric’s last game in DeKalb, the Huskies (15-15, 7-10 Mid-American Conference) found themselves down by double-digits on multiple occasions, as the team had trouble making 3-point shots, going 4-for-18 during the game.

“It is disappointing that we couldn’t muster up enough to win this game,” Montgomery said. “I just thought we didn’t play hard enough in the first half. If we could play [in the first half] like we did in the first 10 minutes of the second half, we would have had something.”

The Broncos (14-15, 10-7 MAC) scored 13 points in the final four minutes of the first half to gain a 10-point halftime advantage, 39-29. Montgomery said the team was never able to withstand a Bronco run, and the Broncos had an answer for every Huskie run.

“Credit [Western Michigan] because they kept making plays after we cut the lead to one,” Montgomery said. “Maybe we ran out of gas.”

Montgomery said he thought the momentum shifted when senior guard Dontel Highsmith, who is eligible to play next season after redshirtting the past two seasons, was called for a debatable offensive foul early in the second half on a layup that would have tied the game.

“To me, I thought [the call] made a huge difference because we could have taken the lead,” Montgomery said. “I just feel like once in a while, we need a call to go our way on our home floor. We had our chances, and we did not capitalize, so it’s not just one play.”

The Huskies were led by Maric, who recorded his 11th double-double this season with 18 points and 12 rebounds. Unfortunately, Armstead and freshman guard Eugene German went a combined 2-for-16 on the night.

Maric and Armstead did not get the outcome they wanted in their final home game but did appreciate their time playing in front of Huskie fans.

“Whether it be the last home game or the first game to start the season, it’s still a game, and it still has to be played the same way,” Armstead said. “I tried to leave Senior Night out of it. This being the last home game had no [impact] on us before the game.”

Montgomery said he believes Maric and Armstead left their mark on a program that was not having success before and turned it around during their time here.

“They helped to change the culture of this program,” Montgomery said. “They are true leaders and competitors. Both those guys will be great ambassadors for this school.”

The Huskies will play their final regular season game against the Ball State Cardinals (19-11, 10-7 MAC) 7 p.m. Friday in Muncie, Indiana.