Men’s basketball crumbles in second half against UIC

Huskies led Flames by 20 at halftime

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Jarrett Huff | Northern Star

UIC Junior guard RayQuawndis Mitchell (left) hits the game-winning three over NIU sophomore guard Tyler Cochran Nov. 25, during NIU’s 65-61 loss to UIC at the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb, Illinois

Kyle Mathas, Reporter

DeKALB — The Huskies suffered a heartbreaking loss Wednesday to the University of Illinois–Chicago Flames to open the season at the NIU Convocation Center.

The Huskies blew a 20-point lead in their game after leading 38-18 heading into halftime. They held the Flames to only 18 first half points on seven- for-30 shooting. The Flames answered with 17-for-30 shooting in the second half, with seven 3-pointers, scoring  47 points in the second half to win 65-61. 

“We weren’t getting stops and they started hitting 3-pointers,” junior guard Darius Beane said, “We just weren’t being aggressive in the second half.” 

The Huskies were led by Beane and sophomore guard Tyler Cochran, both with 13 points. Sophomore guard Trendon Hankerson contributed 10 points and five rebounds. The Huskies defense in the first half was stifling, forcing four turnovers and one shot clock violation. 

“For our team, it’s defense first,” sophomore guard Kaleb Thornton said. “We showed that in the first half but failed to do that in the second half. If we bring how we played in the first half to the next game, it can help us a whole lot.” 

Thornton scored four points in the game.

The Huskies shot 53% from the field and 42% from three in the first half but in the second half, they shot 25% from the field and 0% from 3-point land. 

“If we are up 20, let’s push it to 25e and so on,” Cochran said. We need to play hard, play smart and play aggressive, and we got away from that in the second half.” 

The Flames were led by junior guard RayQuawndis Mitchell, who hit the game-winning three for the Flames, and junior guard Teyvion Kirk who both had 12 points. 

Another big name for the Flames was redshirt junior forward Braelen Bridges who had 10 points. He scored all 10 points in the paint when Huskies junior center Adong Makuoi got in foul trouble with 10 minutes to play. 

The game came down to one of the final plays where the Huskies ran an inbound play but turned it over which led to two points for UIC. 

“We ran a high ball screen,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said.  “They doubled Darius Beane so we found Kingsley Okanu in the pocket. The pass was just a little low and he bobbled it. We wanted [Beane] to get down in the paint and make a play and he made the unselfish play. It just didn’t work out.” 

The Huskies are 0-1 to start the season and will play their next game 6 p.m. Wednesday Dec. 2,  against Southern Illinois–Edwardsville at the NIU Convocation Center.