NIU men’s basketball: Huskies aim to ground Rockets’ offense

By Steve Shonder

What’s happening

Men’s basketball (8-10, 2-5 MAC) will try to snap a two-game skid when it takes on the Toledo Rockets (12-8, 4-3 MAC) 7 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center.


The Huskies are going to need a strong offensive outing to take down Toledo, which averages 74.2 points per game. The Rockets boast four players averaging double figures scoring. Their options on offense make them hard to slow down.

With NIU’s inconsistencies scoring the ball, it’ll need more than a few defensive stops to hang around against Toledo, as the Huskies rank last in the MAC at 64 points per game. If the Huskies are able to control the tempo, it will give them more room to breath on the offensive end and take pressure off their defense, which has remained the bright spot during MAC play.

Toledo is coming off a 70-65 win over the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks Tuesday. Sophomore Jonathan Williams carried the Rockets with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while seniors Julius Brown and J.D. Weatherspoon each chipped in 13 points.

Players to watch

Junior Darrell Bowie is two games into his return to the Huskies from his shoulder injury, and he’s just starting to get his rhythm back. In his first two games back, Bowie has struggled to find his shooting form early before settling in, but he did get into shape earlier against Bowling Green Tuesday. It’ll be interesting to see if he can get it going from the opening tip.

Toledo senior Julius Brown is the MAC’s No. 2 leading scorer at 16.2 points per game, and he always has the potential to unleash a scoring barrage. He’s especially dangerous from the 3-point line, where he’s making 45 percent of his shots, good for fifth best in the MAC.

Last meeting

The Huskies pulled off the upset, toppling the Rockets, 74-66, Feb. 26 at the Convocation Center. Junior Travon Baker paced NIU with 17 points, while three other players scored in double figures.

The quote

“We have to continue to share the basketball, get to the free-throw line [and] knock down some shots,” said head coach Mark Montgomery. “Ball-screen coverage has to be top notch, and we have to get back to getting clan rebounds.

“As a coach you have to be happy in the final five or six minutes [when] you’re still in the game. I just want us to be able to come out on Saturday and play 40 minutes and just compete.”

“Each player has to take upon himself to get in the gym and get in some extra shots,” Montgomery said. “You have [to] be a little smart and understand when you need a good shot and need a great shot. If you’re not having a good day shooting, get the ball to guy who’s having a good game or get yourself to the line.”