Basketball moves closer to historic mark


Junior guard Aaric Armstead points to a teammate in Saturday’s game against Western Michigan University. Armstead scored 18 points in the game, helping the Huskies pick up their 19th win with a score of 76-67.

By Krystal Ward

Men’s basketball (19-10, 8-8 MAC) avenged its Jan. 16 loss to Western Michigan University (11-18, 5-11 MAC) on Saturday, beating the Broncos 76-67 in front of more than 3,000 people at the Convocation Center.

The Huskies tied their 1994-95 season with 19 wins and are one win away from their first 20-win season since 1995-96. NIU has been one of the top defensive teams in the MAC all year and the team had one of its best defensive halves of the season on Saturday. The Huskies held the Broncos to just 19 points and 20.7 percent (6-29) shooting in the first 20 minutes. The home team shot 61.5 percent (16-26) in the first half and junior guard Aaric Armstead connected on three of his four threes before the break. The Huskies led by 19 at the half, 38-19.

Four minutes into the second half, sophomore center Marin Maric converted a three-point play to put NIU up 46-27. The Huskies’ biggest lead of the game was 28 with just less than 10 minutes to play.

It took Western Michigan almost 34 minutes to hit its first and only three-pointer of the game. The Broncos cut the lead to 16 with 4:09 left to play and 11 with 1:28 left in the game. The visitors came within eight points with about 18 seconds left, but the Huskies hit their free throws down the stretch when they needed to and sealed the game.

Armstead scored a game-high 18 points and went 4-7 from downtown. Maric saw his seven-game double-double streak come to an end, but still contributed 16 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and a steal. Senior guard Travon Baker played in the 121st game of his NIU career, a new Huskie record for games played. Baker has not missed a game in his entire career.

NIU shot 52.8 percent (28-53) for the game and held Western Michigan to just 37.9 percent (25-66) for the contest. The Broncos went 1-13 (7.7 percent) on three pointers for the game, while the Huskies shot 38.9 percent (7-18) from behind the arc.

NIU scored 11 points off of 11 Western Michigan turnovers and the Huskies’ bench outscored the Broncos’ bench, 27-15. The Broncos had a 40-30 edge in points in the paint and a 14-10 edge in fast break points.

Broncos sophomore guard Thomas Wilder led the team with 17 points. Freshman center Seth Dugan (10) and junior forward Tucker Haymond (12) also scored in double-figures for the visitors.

Jon Borovich, NIU associate head coach, filled in for head coach Mark Montgomery, who was sick, for the postgame media session. Borovich said it was a great win for NIU against a really tough team.

“We didn’t close out the game the way we wanted to,” Borovich said. “There’s a lot to take away from today’s victory. Closing out games, you need to make free throws, you need to take care of the ball. I think they had like a 16-2 run in the second half to make the game interesting, so there’s a lot to learn from that. We’re happy with today’s win and want to continue to build that momentum as we head towards March and towards the MAC Tournament.”

NIU will go back on the road for its final away game of the regular season as it takes on Eastern Michigan University. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday in Ypsilanti, Mich. and will be televised on ESPN3.