NIU men’s basketball stuns Central Michigan in overtime

Mattieu Koetters

DeKALB Men’s basketball is finally back to its winning ways following the Huskies’ victory over the Central Michigan University Chippewas on Saturday in a thrilling come-from-behind 82-81 overtime win.

Led by a 23-point, 9-rebound performance from senior guard Eugene German, along with three other Huskies who finished with double-digit scoring, NIU overcame a late four-point deficit to maintain its first-place status in the Mid-American Conference West Division.

“It was a classic game between us and Central, where both games were decided by one point,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. 

NIU led by nine points with 5:38 left in regulation before the Chippewas went on a 15-2 run, taking a four-point lead with 2:40 left to play.

Montgomery added that he felt bad shots and poor effort on the defensive glass by the Huskies were possible reasons that NIU failed to protect their lead.

Redshirt senior forward Lacey James pulled NIU back into the game, knocking down a shot from beyond the arc to pull the Huskies within one point. 

The Chippewas followed with a 3-pointer of their own, keeping the Huskies at arms reach with 1:28 left.

The Huskies failed to keep the pace as they were unable to score on their next possession.

However, following a steal by German, NIU regained possession and scored on the fast break, pulling within one possession of the Chippewas.

NIU next made another defensive stop, forcing CMU into a shot-clock violation on the possession.

On the other end, German again attacked the rim, tying the game with 20 seconds to play.

In the final possession of regulation, the Huskies made a third consecutive stop, forcing CMU into several misses as the clock expired.

Heading into overtime, the Huskies struck first, eventually gaining a 78-77 lead following a successful trip to the line by German with 1:44 to go. 

CMU came back as senior forward Rob Montgomery converted a two-point play to put the Chippewas back in the lead by one. 

German made two separate trips to the line following subsequent defensive stops by the Huskies, making two of his four free throws to pull NIU back into the lead by a single point.

After a CMU turnover on the next possession, sophomore guard Trendon Hankerson extended the lead with two free throws of his own, putting NIU up by three with 11 seconds left in the game.

On the final possession, CMU missed a 3-point shot that would have tied the game, settling instead for a layup off the offensive rebound as time expired and NIU claimed the one-point victory. 

Senior forward David Dileo led the way for the Chippewas, with a game-high 25 points, 8 rebounds and an assist.

A highlight of NIU’s performance was its stellar shooting from beyond the arc. The team managed a 46.2% clip on 3-pointers while limiting CMU to just 23.8% from 3-point range on just 21 attempts. Montgomery said he believes perimeter defense was key in the team’s win.

“If you’re going to beat them, they can’t shoot the three at a high rate,” Montgomery said.

With Saturday’s victory, the Huskies’ record stands at 16-11 overall and 9-5 in MAC play. Their next game will come as they travel 6 p.m. Tuesday to Ypsilanti, Michigan to meet the Eastern Michigan University Eagles at  the EMU Convocation Center. 

The game will be available on ESPN+.