Huskies see triple in dazing loss to Rockets

NIU suffers 100-point beatdown in home bout with Toledo


Courtesy of NIU Athletics

Sophomore guard Keshawn WIlliams attempts a layup during Saturday’s game against the University of Toledo Rockets. Williams finished as NIU’s leading scorer with 19 points in the 100-72 loss at the Convocation Center in DeKalb. (NIU Athletics)

DeKALB — Men’s basketball has added a third game to its losing streak after being blown out by the University of Toledo Rockets Saturday. The Huskies fell in a 100-72 loss at the Convocation Center in DeKalb.

In their last skirmish with the Rockets on Jan. 8, the Huskies were unable to keep up with Toledo’s high-scoring offensive attack. NIU fell 94-63 to tie the all-time series with Toledo at 16-16.

Saturday’s game saw more of the same struggles for NIU as the Huskie defense was unable to contain Toledo’s array of scorers. A 15-0 run in the first half by the Rockets set the tone as Toledo spent just over 37 minutes of the game with the advantage.

“We gave up way too early in that game,” sophomore Keshawn Williams said. “Our coach has always told us, ‘it doesn’t matter what the score is, no matter what the time is, don’t lay down.’ That’s exactly what we did.”

Toledo registered the first points of Saturday’s game as junior forward JT Shumate sank a 3-pointer 29 seconds in. NIU’s first score came 30 seconds later with a jumper by Williams.

Rockets run away with an early lead

The Rockets took themselves to a 14-10 lead near the end of the fourth minute behind a trio of 3-pointers from Shumate. NIU surged back to gain a 20-19 advantage in the 8th minute before Toledo shot off on a 15-0 run.

Junior guard Kaleb Thornton searches for a passing lane during Wednesday’s matchup against the Toledo Rockets. Thornton was NIU’s second-best scorer in the contest with 18 points as the Huskies lost 100-72 to their Mid-American Conference Rivals in DeKalb. (Courtesy of NIU Athletics)

“(Junior forward Setric Millner, Jr.) got loose and then Shumate got loose,” head coach Rashon Burno said. “They made some threes that put us in a difficult situation. When you play against teams like this, you got to control the 3-point line.”

Junior guard Kaleb Thornton snapped Toledo’s scoring streak with 6:49 left in the first half. Thornton’s layup made the score 34-22 in favor of the visiting Rockets. NIU followed up with efforts to hack into Toledo’s 12-point winning margin.

These efforts were unsuccessful as Toledo entered halftime with the largest lead of the game, up 53-35. The Huskies’ attempt to close out the half with a score failed spectacularly as Toledo freshman forward Jacobi Kooper recorded a steal from Thornton with four seconds left. Toledo redshirt freshman guard Ra’Heim Moss then surged down the court and notched a two-point score at the buzzer.

Williams led all Huskie scorers at the game’s halfway mark with 12 points. The game’s leading scorers came from Toledo’s sideline as Shutmate and junior guard RayJ Dennis each came away with 14 points in the first half of play.

Same issues, different half

NIU opened the second-half scoring with a Thornton layup after 56 seconds of action. The Huskies continued to roll, going on a 6-2 run that included a pair of breakaway dunks. The Rockets were able to slip away as they brought their advantage to 21 points, ahead 66-45 with 13:43 left in the ball game.

The Rockets maintained their advantage in the early stages of the second half as they gradually added to their lead. A dunk by Toledo’s Kooper allowed the Rockets to rest comfortably with their largest lead of the game, up 26 points, 83-57, over the Huskies with 7:49 showing on the game clock.

Toledo hits hundreds in DeKalb

Matters only became worse for NIU as Toledo broke into the triple digits after a layup by freshman center Mihai Carcoana, making the score 100-70. The Huskies ended the night with a pair of made free throws from freshman guard Noah Kon, making the final score 100-72.

“We have a sense of pride when it comes to defense and guarding people,” Thornton said. “(Toledo) scoring 100 points is not something that’s acceptable.”

Williams finished the game with 19 points to lead all NIU scorers. Thornton was not far behind with 18 points of his own in the game. The Rockets sported the game’s top three scorers as Dennis and sophomore guard Ryan Rollins tied for a game-leading 22 points. Shumate racked up 20 points.

The results of Saturday’s game send NIU to 6-16 on the season and 3-9 against opponents from the Mid-American Conference. Toledo heads back home with their 20th win of the season as they take themselves to a 20-5 overall record and 12-2 in conference play.

Toledo’s win also completes the sweep against NIU for the 2021-22 regular season. The Rockets now lead the all-time series against the Huskies, ahead 17-16 since Dec. 5, 2005.

“They’re a very, very difficult team,” Burno said. “They rarely make mistakes, and when they do, you have to punish them. We didn’t do a good job.”

Men’s basketball will resume action when they take a trip to Muncie, Indiana, for their second matchup of the season against the Ball State University Cardinals. The contest between the MAC rivals is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday and will be streamed on ESPN+.