Men’s basketball sends Eagles home with loss

The Huskies double up in the win column after defeating two straight MAC opponents.


Summer Fitzgerald

NIU sophomore guard Keshawn Williams defends against EMU freshman guard Noah Farrakhan during a game Wednesday in DeKalb.

By Skyler Kisellus, Sports Reporter

DeKALB — Men’s basketball earned back-to-back victories for the first time this season after holding off the Eastern Michigan University Eagles 77-70 in their 2022 home opener Saturday.

Saturday’s victory comes four days after upsetting the Kent State Golden Flashes 65-63 on the road.

Sophomore guard Keshawn Williams saw increased playing time

Senior guard Anthony Crump dunks the basketball during Saturday’s home victory over Eastern Michigan University. (Summer Fitzgerald)

after sitting out Jan. 8 loss to Toledo and seeing limited playing time in the win over Kent State. The sophomore Huskie led NIU’s scoring with 18 points Saturday.

“It’s going to take some time to get his rhythm back,” head coach Rashon Burno said. “He stepped up and made big plays. He’s a guy that we need to have really good games in order to win.”

The Huskies took to the scoreboard first after senior guard Trendon Hankerson made a three-pointer 31 seconds into the game. NIU extended themselves out to a 9-2 lead in the third minute.

EMU freshman guard Noah Farrakhan led an Eagles 7-1 scoring run to bring them within one, down 10-9. The following Eagles three-pointer and Huskie layup brought the teams even at 12-12 with 12:00 remaining in the first half.

From there, NIU and EIU went blow for blow as the teams tied each other three times between the 9th and 11th minutes of the game. The Huskies regained the lead at the 6:25 mark after a layup by sophomore guard Keshawn Williams, going up 25-23.

The Eagles proceeded to tie the score two more times in a two-minute span. NIU senior center Adong Makoui helped the Huskies create a two-score lead with a dunk and a layup, putting them ahead 34-30 with 1:58 left in the half.

Junior guard Kaleb Thornton and Williams would add the last of the Huskies’ first-half points in the form of a layup and a three-pointer respectively. EMU’s Farrakhan posted a layup on the final play of the half to send NIU to halftime leading 39-32.

Williams went into halftime as NIU’s leading scorer in the first half. The sophomore transfer posted 10 points, shooting 57.1% from the field. Eastern Michigan’s Farrakhan led all scorers with 13 points, nine being the Eagle’s first points of the game.

NIU began the second-half scoring affair with a free throw by senior guard Anthony Crump to take NIU’s lead to 40-32. After amassing a 49-40 lead with 14:38 left, NIU saw EMU answer with a run that slimmed the Huskie lead to 51-50 by the game’s 28th minute. The Huskies quickly worked to create breathing room by building a two-score lead with two free throws and a layup.

The two-score margin would persist for NIU until Eagles redshirt junior forward Derek Ballard, Jr. made a layup at the 8:28 mark. The score trimmed NIU’s advantage to 59-57. NIU and EMU traded two-point and three-point scores. Eagles forward/guard Nate Scott then responded to a pair of NIU free throws with a three-pointer to cut the NIU lead to one.

Eastern Michigan would come within striking distance of the lead before NIU posted consecutive scores to close the game, winning 77-70.

“We just gotta keep building off of this,” Williams said. “Remember that you gotta wake up the next day and do it all over again.”

The Huskies had five players record double-digit scoring. Farrakhan led the game in points scored, racking up 27 points. NIU closed out the game Saturday with 47.5% shooting, going 28-for-59 from field goal range.

“I thought the ball could’ve went inside a little bit more,” Burno said.

NIU will remain at home Tuesday when the Bowling Green State University Falcons visit the Convocation Center. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN3.