Men’s basketball leaves Chicago State with victory

Huskies rally behind second half scoring to earn third victory of the season.


Khavon Thomas | Northern Star

Senior guard Trendon Hankerson goes for a wide open layup on Dec. 2 at the Convocation Center against EIU. Hankerson’s 16 points helped NIU snap a five-game losing streak.

By Skyler Kisellus, Sports Reporter

DeKALB — Men’s basketball took home a 70-59 victory on the road against the Chicago State University Cougars Monday.

Monday’s contest gave NIU its second win in three games after defeating Eastern Illinois University at home Dec. 1.

A rally late in the first half and a coaching change in the early stages of the second half helped rejuvenate the fluidity of the offense and allowed the Huskies to best a Chicago State team that controlled the opening stages of the matchup.

“It was survival mode,” head coach Rashon Burno said in a postgame interview with Huskie Sports Radio Network. “We worked with smaller lineups during that little break we had, so that’s going to be something we go to early and often for the rest of the season.”

Chicago State shot off to a quick lead after freshman guard Jahsean Corbett hit two three-point jumpers to make it a 6-0 ball game after 96 seconds of play. The Cougars extended the lead to 10-0 before senior forward Chinedu Kingsley Okanu gave NIU its first two points off a dunk in the closing seconds of the fourth minute.

The Cougars and Huskies briefly exchanged scores before Chicago State reclaimed control with three straight scores to extend their advantage to 19-7 midway through the first half.

“We haven’t gotten off to good starts,” Burno said. “We’ve constantly chased against good teams and teams that are at our level. We’ve got to do a better job of starting a game quicker and more efficiently.”

NIU closed out the first half with a 15-6 run to narrow Chicago State’s lead to five points, going into halftime down 27-22.

NIU went 38.1% on 21 shots in the first half. Junior guard Darweshi Hunter came off the bench with six points to lead the Huskies in first-half scoring. Hunter’s points resulted from two made three-point shots.

Chicago State’s Corbett opened up the second-half scoring with a layup in the third minute. NIU quickly answered with a three-pointer jumper by junior guard Kaleb Thornton 19 seconds later, making the score 29-25 in favor of the Cougars.

NIU later tied the score 30-30 with a layup by sophomore guard Keshawn Williams before senior guard Trendon Hankerson nailed the go-ahead free throw shot to give NIU its first lead, up 31-30. The Huskies extended their lead to 39-30 in what would be a 14-0 scoring run.

The Cougars ended NIU’s scoring streak with a successful three-point shot by junior guard Favour Chukwukelu to trim the Huskies’ lead to 39-33 with 12:13 remaining.

NIU created its first double-digit lead after Hankerson made both free throws to make the score 48-38 with 5:24 left in the game.

A final flurry of scoring began in the closing minutes as both teams combined for 37 points in the final 3:06 of game time. The Huskies achieved their highest margin of the game as the second of two free throws by freshman guard Zion Russell put NIU up by 15 at 65-50 with 1:21 left.

Chicago State narrowly outscored NIU 19-18 during their final run but fell short as the Huskies left Jones Convocation Center with the 70-59 victory, NIU’s third of the season.

The Huskies saw four players register double-digit scoring Monday. Williams headed the offensive effort with a game-leading 18 points, shooting 6-12 from the field, including the final two points of the game. Hankerson was NIU’s next-best scorer with 13 points, followed by 12 points from senior guard Anthony Crump and 11 from Thornton.

NIU closed the game with an overall shooting percentage of 43.8% on 48 shots, including 65.6% shooting from the free-throw line. The Huskies more than doubled their first-half point total in the second half as they posted 48 points compared to the 22 they recorded in the first 20 minutes.

“In the second half, if you look at the first four minutes (in comparison), we did a lot better,” Burno said. “48 points. We’ve had games where we scored 48.”

The Huskies will return to Chicago Sunday at 1 p.m. to challenge the University of Illinois at Chicago Flames in Credit Union 1 Arena. The game will be available to watch on ESPN+.