Freshman guard Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) scored a career-best 11 points, sophomore wing Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) had 11 points and junior guard Aaron Armstead (Chicago, Ill./Hales Franciscan/San Jose City College) added 10 as the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team closed non-conference play with a 65-51 victory over Bethune-Cookman on Friday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Bowie just missed a double-double, finishing with a game-high nine rebounds. Win the victory, NIU improves to 6-6 heading into Mid-American Conference play.
The Huskies shot 46.3 percent (19-of-41) in the contest while holding the Wildcats to just 29.6 percent (16-of-54) shooting. NIU outrebounded Bethune-Cookman, 41-26, and controlled the paint, scoring 32 points in the paint to just 14 for BCU.
“I thought it was a workman-like game for our guys,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “We came out focused; we got the lead early, we build on the lead, and we came out in the second half and expanded the lead. We had a lot of good basketball from a lot of our guys.
“I thought we established ourselves early against their zone by going inside and we did an unbelievable job defensively. Anytime you can hold a team under 30 percent shooting you have to credit your defense.”
NIU jumped out to a quick start, scoring the first eight points in the contest. Four different players scored, capped by a layup from redshirt junior center Pete Rakocevic (Chicago, Ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State) as the Huskies held Bethune-Cookman (2-15) scoreless for the first five minutes of the contest.
Rakocevic finished with nine points and five rebounds, going 3-of-4 from the floor and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line.
The Wildcats answered with the next nine however, taking a 9-8 lead with 13:28 to play in the opening half. The back-and-forth runs continued as the Huskies scored the next eight to lead 16-9 just past the midway point of the half.
NIU led by eight, 30-22, with less than a minute to play before Bowie closed the scoring in the opening 20 minutes with an old-fashioned three-point play, giving the Huskies a 33-22 advantage at the intermission.
Bowie and Aaric Armstead each had six in the first half to pace NIU as the Huskies shot 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from the field and 87.5 percent (14-of-16) from the line in the half, while holding Bethune-Cookman to just 25 percent (7-of-28) shooting.
After the Huskies pushed the lead to 16, 40-24, early in the second half, Bethune-Cookman made a run to cut the lead back to single-digits, 42-33, with 13:50 to play. Following a timeout, NIU responded with the next eight, taking a 50-33 lead.
Bethune-Cookman made six triples in the second half, including a pair in the final two minutes, but by then the game was out of reach as NIU cruised to the 14-point victory.
Clemmye Owens finished with a game-high 19 points, including five triples, for the Huskies. Malik Jackson and Maurice Taylor just missed double-figures with nine each for the shorthanded Wildcats who dressed just eight players.
NIU will open league play Wednesday, Jan. 8, as the Huskies travel to Buffalo, N.Y., to take on the Bulls. Game time in the Queen City is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.