Men’s basketball unable to maintain late lead


By Tom Burton

DeKALB — Men’s basketball fell victim to a 19-0 run from the Ball State University Cardinals, resulting in a comeback overtime win for the Cardinals, 81-72.

The Huskies (14-12, 6-7 Mid-American Conference) went on a scoring drought for nearly 11 minutes in the second half and overtime. NIU did not score a field goal in this time span while the Cardinals (16-10, 7-6 MAC) went on the scoring run to tie the game and eventually take the lead.

Head Coach Mark Montgomery said he thought the team did a good job at putting themselves in position to win the game but mistakes down the stretch costed them the win.

“Unfortunately, we did not close out the game with under four minutes to go,” Montgomery said. “[Ball State] had a lot of momentum going into overtime. I thought we made a valiant effort, but they caught fire at the right time.”

This was a game which could potentially be a preview for the first round of the MAC tournament in March, with both teams sitting in the fourth and fifth seeds in the conference.

This is not the first time this season that the Huskies have failed to close out games in the later stages. They had a 47-33 lead at halftime over the MAC-leading Akron University Zips on Jan. 31 but were outplayed in the second half and lost, 76-73.

“We made plays for 36 minutes of the game, but did not close out the game well,” Montgomery said. “That’s why it’s a 40-minute game.”

One of the bright spots in this difficult stretch of losses for the Huskies is the play of freshman guard Eugene German, who had his first collegiate start Monday.

“I’m just doing whatever coach asks me to do,” German said. “Whether it’s working hard in practice or getting into the gym more, I just let the game come to me and let the offense flow.”

German recorded 20 points on 7-for-16 shooting and added three rebounds and one assist. He is averaging nearly 17 points in the last three games and is slowly establishing himself as one of the leaders on this team.

Montgomery said German is ready for the challenge when the team is struggling to score and assumes the role of trying to get the team easy baskets when the offense gets stagnant.

“When you’re a starter, it’s definitely an added responsibility,” Montgomery said. “I think he has earned the position [as starting point guard] and has taken good care of the ball. Hopefully, he can keep giving us that spark and continue to stay aggressive.”

This was the team’s first game following the departure of sophomore guard Marshawn Wilson, who parted ways with the team Tuesday after meeting with Montgomery and them deciding it was in the best interest for Wilson if he moved on, according to an NIU media release.

The Huskies will be back in action against the University of Toledo Rockets (13-13, 6-7 MAC) 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center.