Men's basketball ends road trip with another loss

Redshirt senior forward Lacey James (left) shoots over a Golden Flash defender Feb. 7 during NIU's game against Kent State University at the Convocation Center.

DeKALB — Men’s basketball’s two-game road trip ended with the team’s second consecutive loss, falling to the Miami University–Ohio RedHawks in Oxford, Ohio. The teams split the season series against each other.

The RedHawks won 65-60 Saturday after leading for the entire 40 minutes of the game, as the Huskies were never able to get closer than a two-point deficit. Miami’s lead reached as high as 10 points several times in the first half.

“It seemed like we were just playing from behind the whole game and never seized control,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “We had two bad starts to both halves.”

NIU and Miami last met Feb. 1 in DeKalb, where the Huskies defeated the RedHawks 70-55.

Senior guard Eugene German led the Huskies with 21 points, breaking NIU’s all-time career-points record by scoring his 2,000th career point.

This time around, Montgomery said he felt like the RedHawks were more patient on offense.

“[The RedHawks] worked the clock and moved the ball every single possession,” Montgomery said. “They really took care of the ball; they only had seven turnovers.”

Sophomore forward Elijah McNamara opened up scoring in the game for the RedHawks with five straight points to give Miami an early 5-0 lead. He helped keep NIU scoreless after blocking German on a layup attempt, but the Huskie guard would end up putting NIU on the board with a 3-pointer to make it 5-3. McNamara would end up scoring Miami’s first seven points.

Senior forward Bam Bowman would then score 10 of the RedHawks’ next 12 points thanks to a pair of 3-pointers and layups as Miami jumped out to its first 10-point lead, 19-9.

Redshirt sophomore guard Isaiah Coleman-Lands then hit two 3-pointers to return Miami’s lead to 10 at 25-15, after German attempted to take NIU on a scoring run.

The first half ended with Miami holding a four-point lead over NIU at 31-27. NIU struggled shooting from the field, as the team shot a combined 34.6%. Miami was able to connect on 44.4% of its shots.

Miami opened up the second half with another 5-0 run, as the Huskies remained scoreless for the first two and a half minutes.

NIU continued to struggle putting together stops on defense, as the team was never able to reel in Miami for long before the RedHawks would go on another run.

With 1:09 to go in the game, German connected on a jumper to bring NIU within two points.

First-year guard Dae Dae Grant was fouled with 23 seconds remaining and split his attempts at the line, putting the RedHawks up 61-58.

German missed a three, leading junior guard Zaire Mateen to foul Coleman-Lands with 10 seconds left in the game. Coleman-Lands connected on both free throws to put Miami ahead by two possessions.

Mateen would attempt a three on the other end, but sophomore guard Trendon Hankerson was there to get the second-chance bucket for NIU, making it a 63-60 game with two seconds remaining.

Mateen again fouled Coleman-Lands to stop the clock, but Coleman-Lands sank both from the line, bringing the RedHawk’s’ lead to five and putting the game out of reach for NIU.

German led all scorers with a game-high 21 points and five rebounds, while redshirt senior Lacey James added 13 points and eight boards.

RedHawks’ Bowman, Coleman-Lands, Grant and McNamara all finished in double figure scoring. Coleman-Lands led the team with 15 points.

With the loss, the Huskies’ overall record falls to 15-11 and 8-5 in Mid-American Conference play with five games remaining on the schedule.

“We want to be playing good basketball going into March,” Montgomery said. “It’s hard to win on the road or at home. [We have] to be locked in, focused, and we got to come out with great energy — great effort. We have to execute down the stretch. [We’ve had] two straight games where it’s a one-possession game, and we just didn’t get it done.”

NIU will enjoy a seven-day break from play before returning home 3:30 p.m. Saturday to the Convocation Center for its rematch against the Central Michigan University Chippewas in DeKalb.

The game will be available on ESPN3.

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