Men’s basketball opens conference play with double-digit victory

By Krystal Ward

Men’s basketball (12-2, 1-0 MAC) defeated Ohio (9-4, 0-1 MAC) 80-69 on Wednesday in its first conference game of the season.

Junior guard Aaric Armstead got the Huskies off to a quick start with nine early points, including two three pointers.

The game already had five ties and six lead changes with 5:09 to play in the first half. There were seven ties and 10 lead changes at halftime. NIU led at the break, 37-35.

The game was close throughout the second half and both teams reached the bonus by the 12-minute mark. NIU created a little separation, pushing the lead to 61-54 with 5:54 left on a pair of free throws and a layup by sophomore center Marin Maric.

Senior guard Travon Baker scored and drew a foul with 1:08 left in the game. Baker scored NIU’s last nine points with 50 seconds left to play to seal the win.

Baker finished the game with a career-high 25 points. Maric recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Freshman guard Laytwan Porter set a career-high in both points and rebounds with 13 points and eight boards.

The Huskies shot 50 percent (22-44) for the game, 47.6 percent (10-21) from the three point line and 70.3 percent (26-37) from the free throw line. NIU had 14 assists and 42 rebounds.

The home team held the visitors to 36.1 percent (22-61) from the field and 27.3 percent (6-22) from the three-point line. NIU scored 23 points in the paint and got 19 points from its bench.

Sophomore guard Jaaron Simmons led Ohio with 19 points on 7-14 shooting. Junior forward Wadly Mompremier grabbed eight rebounds for the Bobcats.

“It was a typical MAC game,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery, according to an NIU Athletics news release. “Tough defense, efficient offense. Ohio is a very well-coached team; you just have to find a way to get multiple stops, score some baskets and survive. I thought our freshmen really got a feel for what it is like to play in a conference game.

“I thought both teams were locked in from beginning to end. We were efficient at the free-throw line and shooting threes, we had more assists than turnovers; our guys were very focused and that is why we came away with the win.”

The Huskies’ next game will be against Eastern Michigan. Tip-off will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Convocation Center.