NIU men’s basketball: Huskies host MAC West-leading Chippewas

By Steve Shonder

What’s happening

Men’s basketball (11-15, 5-10 MAC) will play host to the MAC West-leading Central Michigan Chippewas (21-5, 11-4 MAC) 7 p.m. today at the Convocation Center.


The Chippewas are riding a six-game win streak behind the MAC’s top scoring offense. They’re averaging 79.4 points per game, which is ranked 11th in the country. In its last outing, Central Michigan flew past the Eastern Michigan Eagles, 72-56, Tuesday. Junior John Simons and redshirt freshman Josh Kozinski combined to hit 13 3-pointers.

The Huskies are coming off a big victory of their own, an 84-82 win Wednesday over the Toledo Rockets as redshirt senior Anthony Johnson hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 10 seconds left in the game. The win snapped a three-game skid and put the Huskies in position to pick up some big momentum in the final stretch of the regular season.

Offensively, the Huskies are on a hot streak. They’re averaging 70 points per game in their last six outings and are shooting 46.8 percent from the field in that same stretch.

Players to watch

Simons is the second-leading scorer for Central Michigan, averaging 11.8 points per game. Simons has scored 19 and 23 points in his last two games, while shooting lights out from the 3-point line.

Last game against Central Michigan, sophomore Aaric Armstead scored a season-high 19 points, and while he hasn’t scored like that since then, the familiarity with the Chippewas’ style puts him in position to have another big game scoring the ball.

Last meeting

The last time these two teams met up, the Chippewas came out on top, 68-66, Feb. 18. NIU was down 11 at the half, but the Huskies made a furious comeback in the final 20 minutes, only to be on the losing end after a tip-in from junior Austin Stewart, with three seconds remaining, sealed the win for Central Michigan.

The quote

“We have to make sure we find Central Michigan in transition,” said head coach Mark Montgomery. “They probably made five of their 3s in transition. Our transition defense has to get back, and we have to make sure we don’t turn the ball over against their press because that leads to 3-point shots for Central. We can’t let them get offensive rebounds, because that leads to kick-outs.”