Broncos buck off Huskies in final home game of season

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Jarrett Huff

NIU junior guard Darius Beane (second from right) goes up for a layup March 2, during NIU’s 73-63 loss to the Western Michigan University Broncos at the NIU Convocation Center in DeKalb.

Jarrett Huff

DeKALB — In men’s basketball’s final home game of the season, the Western Michigan University Broncos defeated the Huskies Tuesday by a score of 73-63. NIU kept it close, but could never pull closer than three points down.

NIU sophomore guard Tyler Cochran had a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds, completing a double-double. NIU sophomore guard Kaleb Thornton added 10 points, six assists and six steals, while senior forward Nathan Scott added 12 points, four rebounds, a steal and a block in his final game at the NIU Convocation Center.

Scott said he was thankful for his two seasons playing for the Huskies and attending NIU.

“I want to thank my academics, my coaching staff, my parents, even my teammates’ parents and mostly my teammates, ” Scott said. “They made NIU just one hell of a ride. My two years here were just amazing, going back to the seniors last year with Noah, Lacey and Geno. I’m just thankful to everybody here. I’ll forever be a Huskie.”

NIU struggled to put together a consistent string of offensive possessions, however the team was most successful tacking points on the board off turnovers and second-chance possessions. NIU had 21 points off turnovers and 23 second-chance points. The Huskies had 11 steals and 19 offensive boards in the game.

Interim Head Coach Lamar Chapman wished the team would’ve implemented its zone defense more often, due to its success at creating turnovers.

“I think the zone helped us a little bit,” Chapman said. ‘I’m kicking myself now for not playing more of it. We had active hands which helped on the defensive side.”

NIU got off to a slow start early in the first half, scoring three points in just under five minutes of play. Scott put the Huskies on the board with a 3-pointer, but the rest of the team started out 0-9 from the field. WMU took an 8-3 lead into the first timeout with 15:44 left on the clock.

Inconsistency shooting the ball continued to be the theme for the rest of the first half, as NIU managed to make just 34.3% of its shots, while WMU shot 47.8% from the field. What kept the game close in the first half was the lack of discipline WMU had with the ball. The Broncos committed 10 turnovers to the Huskies’ 4, allowing for the Huskies to capitalize off them by scoring 14 points. 

WMU took a 36-31 lead into halftime, with three players leading the team with six points, including sophomore center Titus Wright who grabbed five boards. NIU’s top performer was junior guard Trendon Hankerson, the only player to reach double-digit scoring in the first half with 11 points.ll

The second half saw a more aggressive Huskie team take the floor. With 15:35 remaining on the clock, WMU’s lead had grown to 13. NIU went on a 12-2 run in just under four minutes, capped off by a steal from junior guard Darius Beane, resulting in a layup from Cochran on the other end. The Broncos led 54-51.

Unfortunately for the Huskies, their achilles heel continued to be offensive consistency and poor free throw shooting. Over the course of the game the Huskies shot 4-13 from the charity stripe. With 8:29 remaining the Broncos retained a double-digit lead, 64-53.

Scott would start a quick 4-0 run with a tip-in off a missed layup. As WMU senior forward Greg Lee came back on the other end for a layup, Scott swatted it, leading to a coast-to-coast play from Thornton, making it a 68-63 game.

The Huskies stalled on offense once again, as it would go scoreless for the next five minutes and ten seconds of play. The Broncos would go on to win 73-63. Chapman chalked up selfish play to some of the team’s offensive woes.

“I think sometimes we got a little too into playing one-on-one,” Chapman said. “I think that happened a little bit with a couple of our guys. We didn’t have any ball movement and we took some tough shots.”

With the loss NIU falls to 2-16 on the season and 1-12 in Mid-American Conference play. NIU’s final game of the season is 4 p.m. Friday against the Central Michigan University Chippewas in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.