Men’s basketball claws way to victory


Senior guard Aaric Armstead shoots a free-throw in Saturday’s game against Eastern Michigan University. The Huskies defeated Eastern Michigan, 81-69, at the Convocation Center.

By Krystal Ward

DeKALB — Men’s basketball (14-9, 6-4 Mid-American Conference) remained in first place in the MAC West as the team defeated the Eastern Michigan University Eagles (13-10, 5-5 MAC), 81-69, Saturday at the Convocation Center. The Huskies took a seven-point lead into halftime and never relinquished it.

NIU takes on the University at Buffalo Bulls 6 p.m. Tuesday in Buffalo, New York.

Eastern Michigan University

The Huskies shot 46 percent (25-for-55) from the field while also holding the Eagles to 46 percent (25-for-55) shooting. NIU shot 41 percent (7-for-17) on 3-pointers and scored 21 points off of 14 Eagles’ turnovers. The Huskies bench outscored the Eagles’ bench, 33-19. A 3-pointer by sophomore wing Levi Bradley with four minutes left in regulation gave NIU its largest lead in the game of 19 points.

Head Coach Mark Montgomery said he thought this was the closest the team has played to a full game all season.

“I thought that we valued the basketball,” Montgomery said. “At halftime I was happy we only had five turnovers. I thought that the defense played good. We shared the ball. [It was] a big bounce back win because your guys could be down after losing a game like Akron, but our guys [were] focused, and it was fun to watch them play two complete halves.”

Senior guard Aaric Armstead broke out of his recent offensive slump with 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field and went 3-for-8 from the 3-point line.

Armstead said breaking out of his slump was a matter of getting his mentality right.

“[I’ve] just been keeping my faith,” Armstead said. “Staying to my practice routines [and] practice habits. Just doing a lot of reflecting, not trying to put a lot of pressure on myself. I just had to calm myself down [and] not force things [and] kind of just come out of that slump.”

Senior center Marin Maric finished with a double-double of 14 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field and 11 rebounds. Bradley came off the bench to score 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting in 20 minutes.

The Eagles held the lead for the first 11 minutes of the first half, garnering a lead as big as 16-9 before the Huskies started to claw their way back in.

Sophomore guard Laytwan Porter knocked down a 3-pointer and was followed by freshman guard Eugene German’s layup and foul for a 3-point play to cut the Eagles’ lead to 16-14.

NIU took a 17-16 lead on a Bradley jumper with 10 minutes left in the first half.

The Huskies went on a 13-0 run to take a 34-26 lead with three minutes remaining in the first half. Maric scored six of his 10 first half points during the run.

NIU extended its lead to 38-31 when Porter lobbed the ball to Armstead for an alley-oop as he was cutting back door.

University at Buffalo

Buffalo (11-12, 5-5 MAC) leads the all-time series, 13-18, and have won the past 11 meetings with NIU.

Buffalo has won its last two games, including a 96-69 rout at Ball State University Friday (15-8, 6-4 MAC). 

The Huskies last defeated the Bulls Jan. 7, 2006, 84-82, in overtime.

The Bulls average 78 points per game to the Huskies 73 points, but NIU is one of the top defensive teams in the conference and holds its opponents to 68 points per game.

It could be a tight battle on the boards as both teams average 13 defensive rebounds per game.

Buffalo turns the ball over nearly two times more than their opponent, so NIU should be able to capitalize on the Bulls’ mistakes and get easy buckets off turnovers.

Armstead continues to break out of his mid-season slump. Before scoring 21 points against Eastern Michigan, he had 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting against Akron University  and 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the field against University of Toledo.

Armstead said he’s been reflecting and keeping his faith on what he wants to achieve.

“I was doing everything basketball-wise,” Armstead said. “[I was] getting up extra shots, doing the right things on and off the court, but shots just weren’t falling, so I had to try something else off the court.”

Armstead seems to have broken out of his slump, and his play should only continue to get better against Buffalo.