Turnovers a factor in men’s hoops loss

By Krystal Ward

KALAMAZOO, MICHIGAN — The men’s basketball team lost Saturday against the Western Michigan University Broncos, 76-67, despite freshman guard Eugene German’s career-high 20 points.

German shot 7-for-12 from the field, but the Huskies were unable to build off of it as they led the game for a total of 31 seconds.

“Our nine first-half turnovers hurt,” said NIU Head Coach Mark Montgomery. “We didn’t score early. We had some turnovers, and we settled for some quick threes. In the second half, we executed better. Guys got to their spots, they cut harder, and we woke up and played. It is hard to spot a team 8-10 points and come back.”

NIU is tied for first place in the Mid-American Conference West division with a 6-6 MAC record and 14-11 overall record.

Western Michigan University

30 percent of the Broncos’ (9-15, 5-7 MAC) points came from free-throws and the team attempted more free-throws (21-for-28) in the second half than they did field goals (10-for-21).

Both teams went on second half scoring droughts, which included time where no team had field-goal attempts.

Senior center Marin Maric picked up his 21st career double-double with points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field and 12 rebounds.

Sophomore wing Levi Bradley also scored in double-figures with 16 points on 6-for-14 shooting from the field.

NIU held the Broncos to 43 percent (22-for-51) shooting for the game, but the team shot 39 percent (22-for-56) from the field. The Huskies’ struggles from the free-throw line continued as they shot 67 percent (18-for-27) from the free-throw line compared to the Broncos’ 74 percent (26-for-35).

NIU received 45 points from its bench, 20 of which came from German.

The Broncos went on an 8-0 run in the first four minutes of the game. The Huskies got on the board after five minutes on a layup by German. German broke up an NIU scoring drought after a drive to the basket to cut into the Broncos’ 15-6 lead with less than 12 minutes left to play in the first half.

With six minutes remaining in the first half, the Broncos started to cool down as they went scoreless for three minutes, and the Huskies cut the lead to 20-16.

Western Michigan grew its lead back to seven, 27-20, at a media timeout with just under four minutes left to play before the half.

Sophomore guard Bryce Moore sank a 3-pointer with one minute remaining before halftime to give the Broncos a 32-22 lead at halftime.

NIU opened the second half on a 9-2 run to cut the Broncos’ lead to 33-31.

A jumper by Maric tied the game at 36-36 with 15 minutes to play in the game.

A triple by sophomore guard Austin Pauga gave NIU a 39-36 lead, but 30 seconds later, the Broncos came back with a 3-pointer of their own to tie the game again, 39-39.

With 12 minutes left, the Broncos scored six straight points off of free-throws to take a 45-39 lead.

Pauga hit his second triple of the game with nearly 8 minutes left in regulation to trim the Broncos’ lead to 55-52.

The Broncos got their lead back up tonight, 61-53, after making seven of eight shots with six minutes left in the game.

NIU went three minutes without making a field goal but were within distance of the Broncos at 68-63 with two minutes left.

The Broncos scored most of their points from free-throws the rest of the way and were able to hold on for the victory.

Ball State University

The Cardinals come into the game on a three-game losing streak, including two-point losses to both Akron University and Ohio University.

Ball State leads the all-time series, 50-37, though NIU has won five of the past six meetings.

The Cardinals are averaging 79 points per game, shooting 38 percent from behind the arc and 46 percent from the field.

Ball State averages 16 assists per game, but also averages 15 turnovers per game.

After struggling to close out the past two games against top teams in the conference, Ball State might come out overly-aggressive against NIU and make mistakes the Huskies could capitalize on.

The Huskies return home to take on the Ball State University Cardinals 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Convocation Center. The game will broadcast on Comcast Sportsnet Plus.