DeKALB — As halftime of Tuesday night’s men’s basketball game against the University of Akron came to a close, the power chords of the AC/DC song “Thunderstruck” rattled through the rafters of the Convocation Center.
The song choice was fitting, as the Huskies appeared to be caught off guard in the first 20 minutes of their Mid-American Conference game with the Zips. Akron came ready to play, and it showed, as the Zips scored the first eight points of the game, took a 24-point lead at the half and rolled out of town with a 72-49 win.
“Give credit to Akron; they punched us in the mouth at the beginning with that 8-0 run,” first-year guard Tyler Cochran said. “We just have to learn to deal with adversity and bounce back from this.”
The Zips, now 14-3 overall and 4-0 in the MAC, had a 15-point lead by eight minutes and 30 seconds into the contest and finished the half shooting 16-for-30 from the field, including 8-for-14 from behind the 3-point arc.
Akron redshirt junior guard Loren Cristian Jackson, the smallest player on the floor at 5 feet, 8 inches and 150 pounds, came up big in the first half when he scored 17 points.Defensively, the Zips held NIU to 18% shooting as the Huskies could only connect on seven of their 39 shots, trailing 44-20 at the break.
“We just couldn’t get going,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “We missed shots, and we couldn’t get stops on defense. Jackson was tough early. [Akron was] making shots, and we seemed like we were standing around instead of fighting and making plays.”
The Huskies, now 9-8 overall and 2-2 in MAC play, came out with a flurry to start the second half. NIU scored the first nine points of the half. An 18-2 run capped off by a layup from redshirt senior forward Lacey James made it a 46-38 game with 13:29 to play.
That was as close as the Huskies got in the second half, as Akron senior guard Tyler Cheese scored 11 of the Zips’ next 13 points, and his 3-pointer with 9:04 left pushed the lead up to 59-40. The Huskies were unable to mount another run. Cheese finished with a game-high 23 points.
“This was just one of those games where you feel off-kilter a bit,” Montgomery said. “We had a better spark in the second half; unfortunately, we didn’t play that way in the first 20 minutes.”
Senior guard Eugene German could only connect on six of his 22 shots from the field, but led the Huskies with 17 points sharing team-high honors for rebounds with senior forward Noah McCarty at eight apiece. Cochran came off the bench to deliver 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Huskies look to bounce back 3 p.m. Saturday, when they travel to face Bowling Green State University at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio.