Huskies fall to Eastern Michigan in back-and-forth MAC match

Senior guard Dante Thorpe looks to lock down the ball handler during the Huskies' 69-78 Jan. 15 loss to Central Michigan

The men’s basketball team dropped a back-and-forth match to the Eastern Michigan University Eagles 57-49 Saturday in Ypsilanti. The Huskies struggled with 3-point shooting and committed to many turnovers down the stretch enabling the Eagles to hand NIU its sixth Mid-American Conference loss of the season.

The Huskies defense fought back after allowing the Eagles to make a 9-0 run in the first half, by forcing four straight turnovers to help them take a 27-24 lead at the half.

In the second half EMU was able to create enough stop and converted fast-break points to slow the game down. The Huskies fell behind late and weren’t able to find their offensive rhythm in time, ultimately falling the the Eagles.

NIU played this game without its leading scorer, junior guard Eugene German. It was later reported that German was suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules.

Related: German suspended indefinitely due to violation of team rules

EMU started the game hot from behind the arc scoring all 12 of its first points off 3-point shots. The Huskies were able to take their first lead of the game after a senior forward Jaylen Key jumper gave NIU a 13-12 lead with 13 minutes to go in the first half.

The Eagles responded by going on a 9-0 run holding the Huskies scoreless for nearly five minutes of game time. Junior forward Noah McCarty broke the drought by knocking down a layup to keep NIU close down 15-21.

After the EMU run, the Huskie defense responded forcing four consecutive turnovers to help pull closer while still down 19-21 with just over six minutes to go in the first.

Senior forward Lacey James completed the comeback for the time begin tying the game a 21 with 3:15 minutes remaining before the break. McCarty scored on a layup to give the Huskies a 27-24 halftime lead.

Senior guard Dante Thorpe led NIU in scoring at the half with eight, while EMU first-year guard Tariq Silver led all scorers with nine. The two teams combined for 18 turnovers in the first half.

The Huskies went 0-5 in 3-point shooting during the first half of the game.

The Eagles opened up the second by going on a 5-0 run to give them a 29-27 lead early in the half.

Related: Late errors hinder Huskies in MAC matchup

The Huskies ran into turnover troubles that allowed EMU to convert fast-break layups. NIU’s offense was able to keep responding to their miscues and kept the game close.

Head Coach Mark Montgomery said his teams turnovers made it difficult for the Huskies to pull out the win.

"We only had six turnovers at the halftime and we ended with 11 more and that's the game," Montgomery said to NIU Athletics. “They got off to a fast start [in the second half] and we are playing catch up. But we caught them, [junior center Boubacar] Toure is at the line, he misses two but we didn't get the rebound and [senior guard Paul] Jackson was the difference in the game."

With over twelve minutes left in the game Key was charged with an intentional foul after grabbing senior forward Elijah Minnie from behind, preventing an easy layup. Minnie would make 1-2 free throws to help preserve the Eagles 37-34 lead.

Both teams would then go on three minute scoring drought as both teams struggled to find their footing on offense. The defenses created turnovers but those chances didn’t turn into easy points on the other end.

Thorpe converted a layup and the foul to bring the huskies back to a 39 all tie with 8:36 remaining in the game.

It wasn’t until 6:14 left in the second half that NIU knocked down its first and only 3-pointer of the contest. First-year wing Austin Richie made the shot to tie the game at 43.

Both teams traded layups on the ensuing possessions to lead the score knotted at 45 with just over five minutes to go.

Jackson caught fire to close out the game for the Eagles.He scored or assisted on 10 of EMU’s final 11 points to stomp out any chance of a Huskie comeback.

With just under a minute left NIU sophomore guard Rod Henry-Hayes was called for a offensive foul with the Huskies down 53-49.

On the next EMU possession Jackson tossed the ball to senior forward James Thompson IV for an emphatic alley-oop to put an exclamation point on the Eagles victory.

After intentionally fouling and made free throws by EMU, 57-49 remained the final score.

Thorpe led all Huskie scorers with 13 points, five rebounds and two assists. Jackson poured in a game-high 23 points and added eight assists.

The Huskies not sit with a 12-12 overall and 5-6 conference record after dropping three straight MAC contests. NIU will continue its conference road trip 6 p.m. Tuesday in Kalamazoo, Michigan when they take on the Western Michigan Broncos.


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