Defensive struggles nix Huskies’ winning streak

Keshawn Williams has career night for Huskies in 92-83 conference loss to Bowling Green Tuesday night.


Summer Fitzgerald

NIU senior guard Trendon Hankerson defends Bowling Green junior guard Samari Curtis during Tuesday’s Mid-American Conference matchup in DeKalb.

By Skyler Kisellus, Sports Reporter

DeKALB — Men’s basketball’s two-game winning streak was brought to a halt after being defeated by the Bowling Green State University Falcons 92-83 Tuesday in DeKalb.

The Huskie defense was overwhelmed by a Bowling Green team that entered Tuesday averaging 83.4 points per game. The Falcons recorded 31-for-51 shooting from the field, including 11 three-pointers. Six players finished with double-digit scoring doubles, led by junior guard Samari Curtis.

“Those guys made us pay for every mistake we made defensively,” head coach Rashon Burno said. “We didn’t do a good enough job in stopping the ball. The ball was in the paint way too much.”

Sophomore guard Keshawn Williams stood as a bright spot in the defeat, setting yet another career high in points scored, with 32 points on the night.

“A career high is great, but if we don’t get the win, it doesn’t mean anything,” Williams said. “I just have to keep being consistent, trying to get my teammates better.”

Senior center Adong Makuoi had the game’s opening score with a layup 46 seconds in to put NIU ahead 2-0. The Huskies and Falcons later found themselves even at 7-7 in the seventh minute.

Scoring went to a standstill for three minutes before Bowling Green graduate guard/forward Trey Diggs hit a three-point shot to put the Falcons up 10-7. The Huskies became the chasers from there, first having to rebound from a 14-8 deficit in the 12th minute. NIU brought themselves within a score of BGSU, down 14-12, in the span of a minute.

The Falcons responded by retaking a comfortable lead, putting themselves up 20-13 with 5:32 left to play in the first half. NIU once again battled back to a one-point game, down 21-20.

The scoreboard showed Bowling Green up by six at 30-22 as the clock ticked by the two minute mark. NIU made the most of the final minutes of the first half, going on a 10-2 scoring run. Senior forward Zool Kueth made the half’s final score, sinking it from three-point land with five seconds left. Bowling Green’s lone shot missed as the buzzer sent the teams to halftime tied at 32-32.

The halftime box score showed first-half scoring spread between eight players from NIU’s lineup. Junior guard Darweshi Hunter was the lone Huskie to go scoreless in the first half. Kueth, Makuoi, and senior guard Trendon Hankerson each had a team-leading six points.

Falcons’ fifth year guard/forward Daeqwon Plowden broke BGSU out of its draw with a back-to-back layup and three-point jumper. NIU brought scoring back to even with a pair of layups and a three, tying the rivals at 39 each 2:35 into the second half.

Senior forward Chinedu Kingsley Okanu goes for a layup during Tuesday’s 92-83 loss to Bowling Green State University. (Zulfiqar Ahmed)

An 11-2 scoring run by the Falcons allowed them to surmount a nine-point lead, putting them up 50-41. NIU’s next two scores saw sophomore guard Keshawn Williams fire back-to-back three pointers into the net, with a Bowling Green three-pointer in between. The Huskies trailed the Falcons 53-47 with 12:42 to go.

Bowling Green extended themselves to a 66-51 lead just over three minutes later, with nine points coming off three-point shots. The Huskies were able to reach 66 points by the half’s 15th minute, but not before the Falcons added 13 points of their own to keep themselves up 79-66. As they did for a majority of the second half, NIU would play chasers to Bowling Green for the remainder of the game.

The final seconds on the game clock bled off with the Falcons well in the lead, finishing the game out with a nine point margin of victory, 92-83.

“(The second half) was a track meet,” Burno said. “It was to their pace. We didn’t do a good job of controlling tempo.”

Williams ended the night with a game-leading 32 points, going 12-for-16 on field goal shooting and 3-for-3 on free throws. Junior guard Kaleb Thornton emerged as the Huskies’ second best scorer with 13 points, followed by 11 points from Hankerson.

The Huskies’ overall record now sits at 5-8 and their conference record drops to .500 at 2-2 in Mid-American Conference play.

“We just got to keep fighting,” Hankerson said. “We still have a long, long way to go as far as the games ahead of us and us getting better.”

NIU will begin a two-game road stint Saturday as they travel to Oxford, Ohio, to play the Miami University at Ohio RedHawks beginning at 2:30 p.m. The matchup will be televised on ESPN3.