NIU men’s basketball recap: Eastern Michigan Eagles 54, Huskies 46

What happened

Men’s basketball (7-8, 1-3 MAC) lost to the Eastern Michigan Eagles (12-5, 1-3 MAC), 54-46, in a defensive struggle Saturday in Ypsilanti, Mich.

How it happened

Both teams held each other to sub-40 shooting percentages. Eastern Michigan shot 33.3 percent for the game and NIU shot 36.6 percent. The Huskies shot well early, but EMU’s defense started to slow them down as the game progressed.

The Huskies got good production off the bench, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Eagles’ defense, which smothered the Huskies’ starters, forcing the bench to have to step up.

Redshirt freshman Marin Maric and senior Aaron Armstead led the bench scorers with 10 and nine points, respectively. The bench combined for 26 points, more than half of NIU’s final point total.

Foul trouble and turnovers spelled doom for the Huskies in the early going. The Eagles got to the line 33 times, making 75.8 percent of their free throws.

NIU had another dismal game holding onto the ball in the first half. It had nine turnovers, including three in the first two minutes. The Eagles capitalized on the Huskies’ turnover issues, scoring 26 points off turnovers.

The number

5: That’s the number of points scored by starters not named Aaric Armstead. Redshirt senior Anthony Johnson and redshirt sophomore Michael Orris were held to three and two points, respectively, while redshirt senior Jordan Threloff and redshirt senior Pete Rakocevic were held scoreless.

Top performers

EMU redshirt sophomore Raven Lee had a monstrous game with 24 points, including a thunderous dunk that gave the Eagles the lead with 2:52 remaining in the first half. The Huskies trailed for the rest of the game.

Sophomore Aaric Armstead paced the Huskies with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Ten of his points came in the second half.

The quote

Making the simple pass “was one of our keys going into the game,” said head coach Mark Montgomery. “Sometimes you have to fake a pass before you make a pass. You have to be stronger with the ball; we had two or three taken right out of our hands. We have to value that ball like its no tomorrow. Credit Eastern, they were aggressive going after us. We just have to be stronger with the ball and keep things simple.”

Up next 

The Huskies finally get off the road and hope to end their three-game skid as they host the Akron Zips 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Convocation Center.