Armstead leading the Huskies through tough stretches


Junior guard Aaric Armstead drives around the key in Saturday’s game against the University of Akron. The Huskies beat the Zips 80-79.

By Krystal Ward

Junior guard Aaric Armstead has been one of the most reliable and consistent players for men’s basketball in his third season, elevating his play year after year.

He came up big in the team’s win over the University of Akron on Saturday when the team was down two points with 37 seconds left, grabbing an offensive board on a missed three by senior guard Travon Baker and putting it back up for the and-one play. Armstead nailed his free throw to put the home team up one, 78-77. He grabbed another offensive rebound just 30 seconds later off of a missed three from Baker and was fouled with two seconds left. His free throws helped NIU hold on for the victory and the team stormed center court to celebrate. Armstead finished the game with 21 points, eight rebounds and an assist. Sophomore center Marin Maric said he knew his teammate was going to nail his free throws following the game.

“We know he’s going to be big at the end of the stretch and knew he was going to make it because I have huge confidence in this guy,” Maric said. “I believe in him and that’s why I knew when he stepped to the line that he was going to knock it down.”

Armstead was the team’s MVP last season and has a good chance at accomplishing the feat again this year. He consistently guards the opposing team’s best player while also being asked to score. He has led the team in scoring eight times so far this season and is the team’s second-best rebounder behind Maric. He’s also second on the team in blocks, only behind Maric.

Armstead said he told himself to “be calm and don’t panic” before going to the line to hit the game-winning free throws.

“Probably not in my college basketball career have I had a situation specific to that one,” he said. “But growing up [playing Amateur Athletic Union] basketball, high school basketball, those things even though it’s a lower level, I still think it kind of prepared me for that.”

The guard leads the Huskies in minutes played, averaging 29 minutes per game and is one of three players to play and start in all 26 games so far this season. His game improves every year and this year hasn’t been any different. He’s been big late in games for the Huskies lately, helping the team break the five-game skid it was on before it won its last two. The Huskies have five games remaining and already have their most wins in a season in 20 years. Their next contest will come against Ball State University at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Muncie, Ind.