NIU men’s basketball: Huskies ‘stymied’ by Bowling Green at home

By Steve Shonder

What happened

Men’s basketball (9-12, 3-7 MAC) fell to the Bowling Green Falcons (15-6, 7-3 MAC), 69-65, Saturday at the Convocation Center.

How it happened

Despite an 18-4 lead to start the game, the Huskies couldn’t build on their momentum as the Falcons cut the lead to three by the half. Bowling Green’s switch to a zone defense left the Huskies struggling on offense, and the Falcons took the lead away for good as they opened the second half on an 8-0 run.

The Huskies’ cold shooting finally ended late in the second half. After clawing their way to a six-point deficit with less than two minutes left, sophomore Aaric Armstead hit a 3-pointer from the corner to pull NIU within three points.

After the 3-pointer, junior Travon Baker, on his way to a 10-point second half, drew a foul and converted both free throws to cut the lead to one point. The Huskies and Falcons traded baskets until Baker got to the line again with six seconds left. He made his first and missed the second intentionally. The Huskies missed the put back. Bowling Green senior Richaun Holmes grabbed the resulting rebound, was fouled and iced the game at the free-throw line.

Junior Spencer Parker and senior Jehvon Clarke came off the bench to score 16 and 18 points, respectively, for the Falcons. Redshirt senior Anthony Johnson scored 11 points and added three rebounds for the Huskies, while senior Aaron Armstead had 10 points.

The number: 11

That’s the number of rebounds the Huskies had during their 18-4 game opening run. They were able to limit the Falcons’ chances, and it helped NIU stretch its lead.

Northern Star players of the game

Baker struggled in the first half, scoring seven points on 3-7 shooting, but he came alive in the second half. Baker put up 13 points and was clutch at the free-throw line late in the game. He also drew a big foul in the second half that led to the Huskies cutting the deficit to one point.

Bowling Green’s Holmes scored 18 points and picked up eight rebounds. While his offense was a big reason for the Falcons’ win, his four blocks kept the Huskies struggling to score on the interior.

The quotes

“We haven’t had many big leads like that,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “The ball’s going through the basket, it’s great, but I thought our defense was so strong at the beginning of the game, and we’re getting out in transition. When you can get clean rebounds, we’re a pretty good running team. I thought their 2-2-1 slowed us down, and their zone kind of stymied us.”

“I thought Spencer Parker was huge in the first half,” said Bowling Green head coach Chris Jans. “Coming off the bench for the first time all year I like the way he handled it and his performance. If it wasn’t for him we probably don’t crawl back into the game.”

Up next

Men’s basketball remains in DeKalb for a 7 p.m. Tuesday matchup against the Ball State Cardinals (7-14, 2-8 MAC) at the Convocation Center.