NIU men’s basketball: Huskies earn rare road victory

By Steve Shonder

What happened

Men’s basketball (11-15, 5-10 MAC) upset the Toledo Rockets (18-10, 10-5 MAC), winning 84-82 Wednesday in Toledo, Ohio.

The win snaps a three-game losing streak and gives the Huskies their third road win of the season.

How it happened

Rockets’ senior Julius Brown hit a pair of free throws to put Toledo up, 81-78, with 1:16 to go in the game, but the Huskies didn’t go away. Junior Travon Baker tied it up 81-81 with a 3-pointer. The Rockets responded with another trip to the charity stripe, but senior Justin Drummond only hit one of his two shots, leaving Toledo up 82-81.

With 10 seconds left, redshirt senior Anthony Johnson took a handoff from Baker on the perimeter and hit a step-back 3, which wound up being the game-winner.

The teams went back and forth for the opening 10 minutes before NIU pulled ahead to lead by as many as 11 points and finished the half with a seven-point lead. Baker got NIU off on the right foot in the first half with a trio of 3-pointers. The rest of the Huskies followed suit offensively as everyone who got on the floor scored.

While NIU was able to keep its offense rolling in the second half, the Rockets made a comeback behind Brown’s 13 second-half points.

Once again, foul trouble got the better of the Huskies. The Rockets took advantage, making 18 of their 21 trips to the free-throw line. Despite the advantage at the foul line, the Huskies refused to go away, keeping the second half a back-and-forth affair. Toledo regained the lead, but it reached its peak at five points before NIU came out on top.

Northern Star players of the game

Baker was the offensive sparkplug for NIU, scoring 18 points. He opened the game with nine points on three 3-pointers, and he hit a huge 3-pointer for the Huskies in the final minutes. Baker made his presence felt in other ways as he dished out seven assists, including one to Johnson for the game-winner.

Brown carried the Rockets from the free-throw line, making nine of his 10 attempts on his way to a 20-point night. He only made five field goals, but he made his shots count.

The quote

“One of our keys was to come out on a different mindset at the beginning,” said head coach Mark Montgomery. “We played good team defense and one-on-one defense. Then we made some inside-out shots, playing smarter, passing smarter, good player and ball movement.”