Huskies hit season-high in assists as men's basketball routs Rockford

Redshirt senior forward Lacey James powers to the basket Friday during NIU's 81-69 win against Coppin State University at the Convocation Center.

DeKALB — The Huskies soundly defeated the Rockford University Regents by a score of 96-48 Saturday. The team had a season-high 18 assists.

NIU struggled early in the season with getting players involved on offense, posting just seven combined assists in its first two games. The Huskies also shot a season-high 52% from the field, and 50% from the three-point line.

“I thought we got a lot of basketball out of everyone on the team, which was good to see,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “We shot a high percentage. It was a feel-good win, but it was earned, and it wasn’t given, and I liked how we competed today on both ends.”

Rockford was challenging early in the first half, as it came out firing from the three-point line. The visitors kept up with NIU and at one point controlled the game with a four-point lead.

Rockford junior guard Brandon Emerick kept the match interesting in the first, dueling with senior guard Eugene German. Emerick shot an efficient 70% from the field, including 4-7 shooting from behind the arc and ending the half with 18 points. German equalled the Rockford guard in scoring, getting his 18 points on 60% shooting and 3-5 from behind the arc.

Emerick finished the match with a game-high 28 points, even after injuring his ankle early in the second half and returning late. Despite Emerick’s fantastic night, the rest of his team was held to 9-33 shooting.

“I thought we guarded as well as we could,” Montgomery said. “You know as a coach you’re never satisfied unless we shut them all down; it would’ve been a great job, but for the most part we got back in transition. We communicated on screens, we got through screens and we took care of business.”

Down the stretch in the first half, the Regents cooled off from behind the arc, and the Huskies began to put together solid close-outs. Rockford ended the half shooting 5-15 from the three.

NIU’s defense succeeded in putting together several consecutive stops midway through the first half, allowing NIU to extend its lead. The defense held Rockford to 35.5% shooting.

Junior forwards Nathan Scott and Chris Johnson came up big on offense late in the first half, contributing seven a piece. First-year guard Tyler Cochran and Johnson created several opportunities for the Huskies off steals and offensive boards to energize the team late in the half.

On the flip side, James and senior forward Noah McCarty struggled in the first half. They combined for one point on 0-5 shooting, despite Rockford being severely undersized.

NIU closed out the half with a 46-28 lead over Rockford.

In the second half, the Huskies ran away with the game. The team kept its foot on the gas despite having a more than comfortable lead.

All 11 NIU players who saw action scored, including four players who hit the double-digit mark. German had his best shooting night of the season, shooting 7-14 from the field and finished with 21.

Sophomore guard Trendon Hankerson was a perfect 4-4, including 2-2 from behind the arc, finishing with 11. Cochran had a career night, scoring a career-high 11 points. Johnson contributed 10 of his own points as well.

NIU was able to throw up a few lobs, converting on three. The highlight was a pass over the hoop from Cochran that sophomore guard Darius Beane was able to control and throw down with two hands, bringing the crowd to its feet.

With the win, NIU improves to 2-2 on the season before Monday’s tournament-closer against Longwood University. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

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