NIU men’s basketball: Huskies topple MAC West No. 1 Central Michigan Chippewas


Junior guard Travon Baker prepares to take a shot during Saturday’s game against the Central Michigan Chippewas at the Convocation Center. NIU beat the No. 1 team in the MAC West, 73-55.

By Frank Gogola

What happened

Men’s basketball (12-15, 6-10 MAC) dominated the MAC West-leading Central Michigan Chippewas (21-6, 11-5 MAC), winning 73-55 Saturday at the Convocation Center.

NIU scored 38 points in the paint, and its strong play inside was highlighted by a dunk from redshirt senior Pete Rakocevic that literally brought the basket down.

How it happened

The Huskies opened the game on a 6-0 run and never looked back as they dominated on both ends of the floor. While Central Michigan was able to get within one point early in the first half, NIU used a 12-2 run to push its lead to 13. That one point was the closest the Chippewas would get for the remainder of the game. At one time the Huskies pushed the lead to 23.

Offensively, the Huskies were in a rhythm as they finished the game shooting 56.8 percent. It wasn’t just the offense that led the Huskies to the win; they limited the Chippewas’ offense to just 31.5 percent shooting. The Huskies also won the rebounding battle, 35-30.

Redshirt senior Anthony Johnson scored 12 points and added six assists. Redshirt senior Jordan Threloff scored nine points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. Senior Aaron Armstead came off the bench to score 11 points, grab four rebounds and get two steals.

The number: 17

That is the number of assists NIU put up. The Huskies continued moving the ball around well against Central Michigan one game after hitting a season-high with 19 assists.

Northern Star players of the game

Sophomore Aaric Armstead scored five-straight points during the Huskies’ game-opening 6-0 run. He led all scorers with 15 points and was 5-6 from the free-throw line.

Central Michigan sophomore Braylon Rayson tried to shoot the Chippewas back into the game in the second half by scoring 12 points.

The quotes

“We’re in a really focused state right now,” Aaric Armstead said. “Going into the Toledo game, we felt like we had something to prove. We went in with the mindset to make a statement against Toledo, and then coming out tonight, we felt we needed to make an even bigger statement. I think that’s what we did.”

“I was feeling bouncy today, and I just went up and dunked it,” Rakocevic said. “I didn’t even know I brought it down until I was crossing half court and Michael Orris shoved me.”

“I thought our defensive effort was outstanding, and you can see right now we’re probably shooting the basketball the best that we’ve shot it all year,” said head coach Mark Montgomery. “We’ve been very unselfish, very efficient.”

“Our guys are in a good place,” Montgomery said. “You can tell that winning is the most important thing. It’s not about points or rebounds; it’s about winning and helping your team win, and you can see that everyone was on the same page today.”