Men’s basketball conquers Ball State on senior night

By Krystal Ward

Men’s basketball (20-11, 9-9 MAC) defeated Ball State University (19-12, 10-8 MAC) 80-69 on Friday to capture its first 20-win season since the 1995-96 season, the fourth time in school history the team has reached that plateau.

Hot shooting guided the Huskies in the win. The team shot better from the three-point line (58.3 percent) than they did on free throws (42.9 percent) and shot 50.8 percent (30-59) overall for the game.

Ball State senior guard Ryan Weber and NIU junior guard Aaric Armstead went back-and-forth on a couple of three-pointers with close to 13 minutes to play in the first half. Freshman guard Laytwan Porter joined in with a three of his own to put the Huskies up 16-14 with 12:51 to play in the period. The Huskies started to create some space when they took a 25-19 lead on a three by freshman guard Marshawn Wilson, heading into halftime leading 37-29.

NIU’s hot shooting continued in the second half when Armstead knocked down a three in the opening 35 seconds to put the team up 40-32. Freshman wing Levi Bradley went on his own run, scoring 10 points in just more than two minutes to extend the Huskies’ lead to 54-40.

A three by sophomore forward Sean Sellers pulled the Cardinals within 11 with 10:55 left to play. Ball State chipped the lead back to nine on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Jeremie Tyler, but it was as close as the Cardinals came to getting back into the game.

NIU tied a school record with 14 three-pointers. The team dished out 16 assists and had just eight turnovers for the game. The Huskies bench also came up huge, scoring 24 points.

Armstead led the team with 14 points and senior guard Travon Baker and senior forward Chuks Iroegbu were solid in their final regular season home game. It was Senior Night and the Huskies honored Baker and Iroegbu with plaques of their jerseys. Iroegbu had 12 points on 5-5 shooting from the field and a steal. Baker finished with 11 points, four assists and three steals.

The Huskies held the Cardinals to 44.6 percent shooting (25-56) and scored 10 points off of 13 Ball State turnovers. Junior forward Franko House led the visitors with 19 points.

“It’s always hard to play on Senior [Night] and I thought [Baker and Iroegbu] played well, played hard,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “I thought the guys rallied behind both guys. We shared the ball, we defended and we just found a way to win the game.

“We’re coming off a tough loss at Eastern [Michigan] at the buzzer and I thought our guys didn’t flinch and they got this thing done on short notice. [I’m] just proud of our guys because to say they’re one of not many teams to get 20 wins at this university and it’s a big step in the right direction.”