NIU men’s basketball: Turnovers continue to dog Huskies

By Steve Shonder

Turnovers have been the bane for men’s basketball (7-8, 1-3 MAC) as it’s struggled in its last two games, giving up a combined 18 turnovers in the two first halves.

It’s been difficult for the Huskies to maintain any offensive momentum when turnovers keep leading to fast break scores for the opposition. While NIU cut down on the unforced turnovers and fast break scores Saturday against the Eastern Michigan Eagles, they’ve played a big role in the Huskies’ losses. NIU held the Eagles to 26 points off turnovers and eight fast-break points after giving up 30 points off turnovers and 24 fast-break points Wednesday to Buffalo.

“It seems like they come in spurts,” said head coach Mark Montgomery. “You play five minutes of turnover-free ball and one leads to another. It’s everything that’s correctable.

“It’s just making the simple play and not trying to do something out of character. Simple plays in basketball give you better results. So, we’re going to try to make more simple plays.”

The turnovers have contributed to a three-game skid. Despite the high turnover rate, the Huskies have been forcing turnovers, just not at the rate they need to overcome early errors.

They’ve also still been cleaning up on the glass: The Huskies own a plus-six rebounding advantage, which is the best in the MAC.

The Huskies will get a chance at ending their losing streak when they finally get back to the Convocation Center to take on the Akron Zips (12-5, 3-1 MAC) 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Breaking down the Zips

Akron boasts one of the more prolific 3-point shooting teams in the MAC. While its 3-point shooting percentage of 34.9 percent is in the middle of the conference statistically, it hasn’t stopped the Zips from firing away or getting on hot streaks. On average, half of their field goal attempts are from the 3-point line.

The Huskies will have to resist the urge to get into a shooting contest with Akron if it starts to hit from beyond the arc. NIU will look to its defense to set the tone and prevent Akron’s shooters from finding a rhythm.

“We’ll try to hold them to as few 3s as possible and try to get them to as low a percentage as possible,” said sophomore Aaric Armstead. “We won’t feel we have a need to come back and match them 3 for 3. We’ll just let our game come to us.”


Keeping pace with opposing offenses has been a problem for NIU, and the next game won’t be any easier. The Zips average 70.2 points per game. The key for NIU will be to keep the game at its preferred pace and allow for its offense to go from there.

“Our offense is based on rhythm,” said redshirt senior Anthony Johnson. “Sometimes you get it going, and there are times where you don’t score for three or four minutes. I think it just comes down to our guys being aggressive. If they get an opportunity, take it. If not, create for someone else.”


With the Zips’ propensity for 3-point shooting, Montgomery said there will be extra pressure on the Huskies’ guards to grab rebounds.

“Knowing that longer shot [equals] longer rebound, we’ll have a bigger emphasis on boxing out, getting right up on their shooters and boxing out once they let the ball go,” Armstead said.

Injury updates

Junior Darrell Bowie will remain out with a shoulder injury. Officially, Bowie is day-to-day, but Montgomery said Bowie still isn’t able to go through contact in practice, and once he’s able to, Bowie will be back on track to play.

“He’s rehabbing,” Montgomery said. “He’s doing individual workouts, but unfortunately, that shoulder isn’t strong enough where he can do game situations.”

Senior Aaron Armstead, who is dealing with a knee injury, will continue to play despite aggravating it again in practice the other day.