Men’s basketball earns its first win of 2020-21 in final non-conference game

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Jarrett Huff | Northern Star

Then-first-year guard Tyler Cochran attempts a 3-pointer Feb. 7 during NIU’s 57-54 win over Kent State University at the NIU Convocation Center.

Kyle Mathas

DeKalb — The men’s basketball team recorded its first win of the season Friday against the Chicago State University Cougars, 64-54.

The Huskies got the win behind the shooting of sophomore guard Tyler Cochran, scoring 15 points on the night. He played his first game since having to sit out due to COVID-19 contact tracing before the game against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.

“I felt really good to be able to get out there with my guys,” Cochran said. “While sitting at home and watching them, I was critiquing them, but to finally get out there and play with them, it felt really good.”

 Other major offensive contributions included 12 points from junior guard Trendon Hankerson, 13 points from junior guard Darius Beane and 11 points from junior center Adong Makuoi. The Huskies shot just under 42% from the field. Head Coach Mark Montgomery praised Makuoi specifically. the center had a few late shots that kept Chicago State at bay.

“Makuoi is a presence,” Montogomery said. “He lets the game come to him and is a good finisher. I really like his poise and confidence. He’s only going to get better as the season goes on.”

Chicago State’s leading scorer was senior guard Xavier Johnson with 23 points in the loss. Another helpful tool for the Huskies was their defense, which forced Chicago State to turn the ball over 14 times and commit 15 personal fouls. 

“Our defense is our statement,” Montgomery said. “When we look back to see how we won a game, it was always through our defense. We always look at our goals, to hold teams under 40% shooting, and we held them right at 40% which was good for our defense.”

The Huskies had the lead for the entire game after being tied at 16 early in the first half, but let the Cougars get within one point with a little over five minutes to play. The Huskies were able to close the game out with some big points from Beane and Cochran.

“Our defense closed it out at the end, and we made some key baskets on the offensive end,” Montgomery said. “Our outside shooting still isn’t there yet but we found a way to win.”

Huskies senior forward Nathan Scott has yet to return to the floor. He is expected to either return in next week’s game against the University of Toledo Rockets or after Christmas. 

“We are hoping to have him back by the game against Toledo but we don’t want to rush things,” Montgomery said. “We hope to have him back after Christmas at the latest. He is practicing at about 40% right now, and we definitely need to be cautious.”

The Huskies will head to Toledo, OH for their next game against Toledo Tuesday. Toledo has five wins and three losses on the season as the Huskies get ready for Mid-American Conference play for the remainder of the season. Tipoff will be at 1 p.m. and broadcasted on ESPN3.