Men’s basketball’s comeback falls short against Ball State


Northern Star File Photo

Junior guard Darweshi Hunter passes the ball during a conference matchup against the Bowling Green Falcons at the Convocation Center in DeKalb.

By Waleed Alamleh, Sports Reporter

DeKALB — The men’s basketball team could not finish off an 11-point comeback attempt against Ball State University Thursday night after losing in a close matchup 74-67. 

NIU got out to a sloppy start to this game, only making one basket in the first five minutes of play. The Cardinals’ pesky defense forced multiple turnovers on the Huskies to start the game, including two steals from former Huskie and current Ball State sophomore guard Tyler Cochran. 

After going down 12-2, NIU head coach Rashon Burno was visibly upset with the performance of his starters, yanking them all with 15:48 left in the first half.

“I think we rushed offensively and we were lethargic,” Burno said. “Our energy wasn’t what I thought it would be coming home after a tough Ohio trip.” 

The bench came in and performed well, giving the team a much-needed momentum booster.  The energy was led by senior forward Zool Kueth, hitting two big threes to get the energy rolling and cutting the lead to 15-10. 

“I just wanna help them get going,” Kueth said, referring to the starters’ struggles. 

The Cardinals would respond with back-to-back 3-pointers, pushing the lead all the way to 21-10. NIU would go on another big scoring drought from that point, not scoring until the 9:45 mark, off a senior guard Trendon Hankerson layup. 

The Huskies’ defense stepped up from this point on by forcing five straight turnovers from the 9:45 to the 8:00 minute mark, including three steals, two by junior guard Kaleb Thornton and one by Hankerson. 

NIU created energy on the defensive side to use on offense, going on a six-point run to cut the lead to 21-15. The teams traded baskets as the half continued on with the Cardinals lead never growing past eight, after a Cochran jumper made the score 33-25 with 2:11 to go in the half. 

The Huskies held the Cardinals scoreless the final two minutes but were only able to score one more basket from senior center Adong Makuoi. 

NIU starters came out of the half with better energy, a lot of that having to do with the play of the Huskies’ leading scorer on the season, sophomore guard Keshawn Williams. Williams was held scoreless in the first half but wouldn’t let that phase him as he made the first basket to kick off the second, cutting the lead to four points. Williams would finish the game with 16 points on shooting an impressive 55% from the field in the second half, never letting his sluggish start get to him.

“I know what I could do, and I’m pretty sure my teammates know what to do,” Williams said. “That’s something I try to work on, not coming out slow out the gate.” 

The Huskies were able to get within one possession, before Hankerson made a 3-pointer to give the team its first lead of the game, 37-36, with 17 minutes remaining. 

The Cardinals would come back with a 6-1 run, to take a 42-38 lead. Williams would go on a personal 7-0 run to help give the Huskies the lead back 45-44 with 11:38 left in the game. 

The game would stay competitive with neither team having a lead greater than four until just under two minutes remaining. The Huskies last led in the ball game 60-59 with just over five minutes remaining. The Cardinals ended the game on a 14-8 run and put away the Huskies 74-67. 

NIU will have a quick turnaround, playing its fourth game in one week when they take on the Central Michigan University Chippewas at 3 p.m Saturday. The game will be available on ESPN3.