Men’s basketball stumbles in 2nd half

By Tom Burton

DeKALB — Men’s basketball (13-9, 5-4 Mid-American Conference) squandered its 14-point halftime lead against the University of Akron Zips (19-3, 9-0 MAC) at the halftime break, and lost, 76-73 Tuesday at the Convocation Center.

The Huskies 12-second half turnovers proved to be their Achilles heel as the team could not get any momentum in the second half.

“We played the best 20 minutes [of the season] in the opening half,” said Head Coach Mark Montgomery. “In the second half, we ran out of energy and our turnovers costed us.”

This was a big game for NIU as the Zips came into this game undefeated in conference play, but the Huskies were unable to .

“Give a lot of credit to Akron,” Montgomery said. “They kept playing and finding ways to shrink the lead and eventually won the game.”

The Huskies had the ball with 23 seconds left in the second half with a chance to tie, but were unable to capitalize.

The Huskies were led by senior center Marin Maric, who recorded another double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, but 18 points came in the first half, and he only attempted four shots in the second half as the game appeared to be moving too fast for the Huskies backcourt to keep the game in hand.

“In the first half, we had a steady diet of Maric,” Montgomery said. “Our guards did not have enough poise and patience to get him the ball and that’s where the turnovers and the bad shots came into play.”

Defensively, Maric was worn down at the end of the game by Zips’ senior center Isaiah Johnson, who tallied 21 points on 9-for-16 shooting in a game where the offense featured him heavily.

“They [run their offense] through Johnson and you have to pick your poison,” Montgomery said. “If you double [team] him every time, they’re one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the conference.”

The Zips made 11 3-pointers in the game, including a 4-8 3-point shooting performance from junior guard Antino Johnson, who had a team-high 22 points for the Zips.

Montgomery said the first half was the best he has seen from his team all season. The Huskies got 18 first half points from Maric 11 from senior forward Aaric Armstead, but the offense was not able to get them shots in the second half.

The Huskies will have to shake off the loss and prepare for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. home game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (13-9, 5-4 MAC), who are coming off a loss to Kent State University on Tuesday.

“A true team picks themselves [up] off the ground after a win or a loss and gets ready for the next game,” Montgomery said. “We know we can play with the best,and I expect my team to be ready to go on Saturday.”