Western Michigan shot 54.3 percent (19-of-35) from the field while holding Northern Illinois to just 20 percent shooting (11-of-55) as the Broncos earned a 71-34 victory on Saturday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Sophomore forward Kevin Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) tied a career-high with 13 points and grabbed a team-best five rebounds for the Huskies.
Western Michigan (10-8, 2-2 MAC) shot 50 percent (7-of-14) from behind the 3-point arc while NIU was just 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) from 3-point range.
The Broncos converted on 26-of-31 free throw attempts while the Huskies went to the charity stripe just 16 times. Northern Illinois (3-13, 1-3 MAC) turned the ball over just 11 times while forcing 19 Western Michigan turnovers, but the Huskies held just a 14-12 advantage in points off turnovers.
“Western Michigan came in and just punched us right in the face,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “I thought they were tougher, more physical. If you look at the rebounding, 42-27, the points in the paint, 22-4, our guys were just in quick sand. We were coming off a couple of good practices but just couldn’t get a shot to go in to stop the bleeding. Credit Western Michigan, they were physical, they were tougher, they were stronger and they played very well.”
The Broncos led by as many as 16 in the first half, 27-11, but a trio of NIU triples helped the Huskies pull back within 11, at the intermission.
Freshman guard J.J. Cravatta (Streator, Ill./Streator Township) connected on a pair of triples and freshman guard Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) beat the shot clock with a trifecta to cut the Western Michigan lead to 31-20 at the half.
After the intermission, WMU went on an early 7-0 run to push its lead to 18, 38-20, and never looked back.
David Brown led Western Michigan with 13 points, 11 of which came before the intermission, Shayne Whittington added nine points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Northern Illinois head back on the road next week for a pair of games, beginning with a trip to Mount Pleasant, Mich., to face Central Michigan on Wednesday, Jan. 23. Game time against the Chippewas is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.