Balanced effort guides men’s hoops past Idaho

By Frank Gogola

A quartet of Huskies scored in double figures as men’s basketball held off the Idaho Vandals to remain undefeated.

The Huskies (2-0) beat the Vandals (2-1), 78-67, Thursday at the Convocation Center to improve to 2-0 for the first time since the 2006-07 season.

Junior wing Darrell Bowie and sophomore guard Aaric Armstead scored 16 points apiece and grabbed eight and seven rebounds, respectively. Redshirt senior center Jordan Threloff came within one rebound of a double-double, collecting 11 points and nine rebounds. Junior guard Travon Baker dropped 14 points in 23 minutes.

“We have a lot of different guys that can score the basketball,” said head coach Mark Montgomery. “… I thought our guys played very unselfish. Other than probably missing some early layups I liked how they were definitely attacking the basket.”

The Huskies jumped out to a 14-5 lead 4:40 into the game, but the Vandals stormed back to take a 16-14 lead. The teams traded baskets until redshirt junior wing Chuks Iroegbu hit a 3-pointer to break a 21-21 tie with 5:43 remaining in the first half. NIU took a 39-27 lead into the half.

“I thought we got off to an incredible start to get the crowd into it,” Montgomery said. “I liked where our guys came out with great energy, great effort. They shared the basketball, played very unselfish, and I know we played some stingy defense” Thursday.

The Vandals fought back throughout the second half, pulling within five points on three occasions, but the Huskies kept them at bay. Idaho got within five points, 61-56, of NIU for the final time with 8:43 to play, but the Huskies used a 7-2 run to go up 68-58 with 5:23 to go.

“We stayed aggressive,” Armstead said. “They forced their will, but we made a sufficient effort to keep going at them even though they were trying their hardest.”

The Huskies’ final 10 points came at the free throw line as they hit 10 of their 13 free throw attempts in the final 2:32 of regulation.

Bowie and Threloff each went 5-6 from the charity stripe, while Baker went 4-6 and Armstead went 3-4.

“If you’re going to win a lot of games and be successful you have to definitely close it out at the free throw line,” Montgomery said. “And we did that … .”

The Vandals came into the contest shooting 46.4 percent (13-28) from beyond the arc. Armstead said the key to holding them to 21.7 percent (5-23) from downtown was the team’s “defensive intensity.”