Men’s basketball continues to struggle on the road

By Christopher Loggins

Road struggles continued for men’s basketball (18-10, 7-8 MAC), which fell to Central Michigan University 76-64 on Tuesday in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

The Huskies have lost seven of their last nine games since Jan. 26 and have fallen to fourth place in the MAC West, despite having the same record as No. 1 Ball State University. Their fall is due to poor conference play — the team started 5-1 in MAC play but went on a five-game losing and hasn’t looked the same since.

Senior guard Travon Baker and sophomore center Marin Maric were the only two Huskies in double figure scoring for the night, scoring 10 points apiece. Maric notched his seventh straight double-double after adding 11 rebounds to his game totals.

NIU struggled from the field, shooting just 36 percent for the game after a rough second half performance. The team shot 40 percent in the first half but dropped all the way to 32 percent in the second. It also shot a dismal 15 percent from three after going 3-19. The Huskies’ biggest advantage came in rebounding — they held a 41-37 rebounding advantage over the Chippewas, largely due to 19 offensive rebounds, leading to 20 second chance points.

The Huskies led for just one second in the game and the contest was tied for just more than a minute. Central Michigan’s largest lead was 13 points and it led for a total of 38:27. The Chippewas drained 10 threes compared to just three for NIU, a 21-point swing in that category alone.

“It seemed like Central Michigan was a step quicker than us,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery, according to an NIU Athletics news release. “They shoot a lot of threes, so there are going to be a lot of long rebounds and 50/50 balls, and it seemed like we didn’t come up with many. We didn’t do ourselves any favors, we shot the ball too quick offensively and put ourselves in a hole.

“In the second half we had more patience, played better defense, came back and took the lead. The game was up for grabs and they made too many shots.”

The loss put a brief stop to the Huskies’ run at 20 wins for the year. With three games remaining in the regular season, they have 18 wins and are set to face Western Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University and Ball State. The good news for NIU is that two of those games are at home, where it has managed to go 15-1 in an up-and-down season, and two of the three teams are also below NIU in the MAC West.

The Huskies’ next opportunity will come later this week – they are set to duel with Western Michigan at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center and on ESPN3. They will move to 16-1 at home with a win.