NIU men’s basketball: Huskies clash with Western Michigan Broncos

By Steve Shonder

What’s happening

Men’s basketball (10-12, 4-7 MAC) will take on the reigning MAC Tournament champion Western Michigan Broncos (14-10, 5-6 MAC) 3:30 p.m. today in Kalamazoo, Mich.

This game has postseason implications as a win would allow the Huskies to overtake the Broncos for the No. 8 seed and a chance to host a first-round game.


The Broncos are starting a three-game home stand after being on the road for four of their last five games; they lost all four of their road games. Their offense, a strong suit early in the season, has fallen on hard times during this latest stretch. While Western Michigan is averaging 71.3 points per game, it’s only averaging 63 points per game in its last five outings.

Against the Bowling Green Falcons Tuesday, the Broncos only mustered 49 points and finished the game shooting 30 percent. The Falcons only allowed one Broncos starter, freshman Thomas Wilder, to double digits, which was a huge blow to the Broncos as they have four players averaging double-digit point totals and no one else averaging more than 5.3 points per game.

If the Huskies are able to lock down the Broncos’ starters they should have an easy time on defense. While the Broncos are far from a one-dimensional offense their lack of scorers on the bench leaves them vulnerable to poor offensive outings, which a defensive-minded team like NIU should be able to exploit.

After snapping a three-game home losing streak with a 75-63 win over the Ball State Cardinals Tuesday, the Huskies are looking to sustain some momentum, which they haven’t been able to do in MAC play. With a goal of hosting a first-round tournament game in their sights every game becomes a must-win.

NIU shot the ball well Tuesday behind a 70 percent shooting performance in the second half. While it’s unrealistic to expect the Huskies to shoot that well every game there have been a lot of signs that the offense is in rhythm. After being held to just four points against the Toledo Rockets Jan. 31, junior Travon Baker is averaging 17.3 points per game, and the Huskies have had at least three players hit double digits in points scored in each of the last four games.

Players to watch

After hitting a rough stretch, redshirt senior Jordan Threloff seems to have finally found his rhythm in the paint and on the boards. He scored 12 points against Ball State, which was the first time he had scored in double digits since he scored 21 against the Kent State Golden Flashes Jan. 10. In the last three games he’s grabbed seven or more rebounds. Look for Threloff to continue the upward tick, which will give the Huskies more flexibility on offense.

Western Michigan senior David Brown is the fourth-leading scorer in the MAC, averaging 15.5 points per game. Brown is coming off his first game since playing Long Beach State Nov. 27 in which he didn’t score in double figures. Brown is the engine of the Western Michigan offense and the Huskies’ guards will have their hands full trying to slow him down.

The quote

“We’re definitely going to carry over our defense,” said head coach Mark Montgomery at a news conference following Tuesday’s win. “It’s always going to keep us in games. We’re not the most efficient offensive team, but maybe we’re starting a new trend [Tuesday], but defensive rebounding is a key every game. It’s just my job to remind the guys of the importance of it.”