Men’s basketball rolls to win


Junior wing Darrell Bowie (10) drives to the basket Saturday at the Convocation Center in the game against the Aurora Spartans. Four Huskies scored nine or more points in the 86-56 victory.

By Steve Shonder

Men’s basketball cruised past an overmatched Aurora Spartans squad to win its first season opener since 2006.

The Huskies (1-0) took down Aurora, 86-56, Saturday at the Convocation Center. Redshirt senior Jordan Threloff said the win sets the tone for how the Huskies are approaching this season.

“It gives us high expectations for ourselves,” Threloff said. “Our offense is playing pretty well. We’ve got to go back and fine-tune some things, looking at our turnovers and tighten up our defense a little bit.”

NIU got big scoring contributions from Threloff and sophomore Aaric Armstead, who scored 17 points each. Threloff earned a double-double with 16 rebounds. The team finished the game with a 48.3 shooting percentage.

“We shot 48 percent for the game, but we always try to strive for 50 percent,” said head coach Mark Montgomery. “We had some inside-outside shots because they were collapsing down hard on our bigs. We’ve been working on it.”

The Huskies were on their game from the opening tip, but they weren’t able to put the Spartans away until Aurora junior Kendall Bailey hit a 3-pointer to pull the Spartans within two. NIU responded with a 24-6 run that effectively iced the game.

On their run, the Huskies got to the free throw line 13 times, making 11 of their attempts. NIU finished the game shooting 80 percent from the line, going 28-35.

Armstead had a dominant first half, scoring 13 points. He was perfect from the charity stripe on five attempts. He finished the game with 17 points, including seven from the line.

He was “just playing hard and trying to get the offensive boards, being aggressive offensively, trying to get to the rim as much as possible,” Armstead said. “I know they’re a smaller team, so going to the rim is going to be open. With the bigs doing what they did it opened up a lot of driving lanes.”

The Spartans put together a better effort in the second half. They shot 39 percent from the floor compared to a 32.4 shooting percentage in the first half. Aurora senior Kyle Pilmer was the go-to man for the Spartans, scoring 15 points with six rebounds.

Aurora was hurt by a reliance on its ineffectual 3-point shooting. The Spartans went 6-25 from beyond the arc.

Rebounding continued to be Huskies’ forte as they dominated the glass. NIU’s 56 rebounds included 17 on the offensive end, which helped with the Huskies’ 27 second-chance points.

It wasn’t a completely dominant performance. The Huskies went 2-14 from 3-point range, and they struggled holding onto the ball. The Huskies had 22 turnovers, which led to 27 points for the Spartans.

“We talked about turnovers as a key, and when you walk away with 22 turnovers you have to go back and look,” Montgomery said. “I thought a lot of those were unforced turnovers. Some were just careless turnovers, and that’s something that we’re going to stress for the rest of the season, definitely this week.”

The win extended the Huskies’ six-game home win streak, dating back to last season.