Early ejections fuel loss for men’s basketball

By Krystal Ward

Men’s basketball (14-3, 3-1 MAC) fell to Western Michigan (7-10, 1-3 MAC) 83-66 on Saturday, breaking the team’s seven-game winning streak.

Four Huskies were ejected early in the game during a timeout. Senior guard Travon Baker drew a flagrant 2 foul and freshman guard Marshawn Wilson, sophomore guard Jordan Thomas and sophomore center Andrew Zelis were ejected for leaving the bench following the foul.

Western Michigan led 18-7 about halfway through the first half, but sophomore center Marin Maric was sent to the bench with his second foul. The shorthanded bench created some new matchups for NIU, who trailed throughout much of the game.

NIU went on an 8-3 run with 6:49 to play in the first period that cut WMU’s lead to 25-17. The Broncos hit seven triples in the first half and led the Huskies 40-28.

Early in the second half, NIU cut the Broncos’ lead to 7, but Western Michigan pushed it back up to 13. WMU went on a 17-4 run and led 57-37 with 13:02 left to play in the game and outscored the Huskies by just two points in the final half.

The Broncos were in the bonus with just more than 11 minutes to play and ahead of the Huskies 60-44. WMU led 79-61 with less than 4 minutes to play and held on for the 17-point victory.

Junior guard Aaric Armstead led the Huskies with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Freshman guard Austin Pauga finished with 12 points, including four of NIU’s six 3-pointers.

The Huskies shot 48.9 percent (23-47) for the game and held the home team to 42.4 percent (25-59) shooting for the game. Both teams shot 46.2 percent from beyond the arc, with NIU going 6-13 and WMU shooting 12-26. NIU’s bench contributed 30 points.

The Broncos scored 21 points off of 21 NIU turnovers and dished out 13 assists to the Huskies’ 11. WMU had a 7-6 edge in fast-break points and a 7-5 edge in second-chance points.

Freshman guard Bryce Moore led the Broncos with 24 points. Senior forward Anthony Avery Jr. and junior guard Tucker Haymond both contributed 11 points for Western Michigan.

“You have to give Western Michigan credit, they came out very aggressive,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery, according to an NIU Athletics news release. “It is hard to win a game when you don’t have your best players. You have to credit Western [Michigan], they took us out of our game. We live and learn, and you have to move on, there was more to the game than the early incident.”

The Huskies return home as they host Central Michigan 7 p.m. today at the Convocation Center.