The Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team shot 57.7 percent (30-of-52), including 66.7 percent (16-of-24) in the second half, as it cruised to an 88-63 victory over Central Michigan on Wednesday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Sophomore Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) scored a game-high 19 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished out four assists to lead the Huskies.
Freshman Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) scored a career-best 17 points and tied a career-high with eight rebounds, redshirt junior Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) chipped in 14 points and seven rebounds and sophomore Daveon Balls (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North) added 11 points.
“I thought our guys came out and followed the game plan,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “We really wanted to get the ball inside and have a post presence early in the game. We got the ball to Jordan Threloff and Darrell Bowie, which dictated how the game went.
“We had a lot of players step up tonight, which was good to see, especially coming off a tough loss to Western Michigan. Our guys bounced back and took care of business.”
The Huskies outscored the Chippewas 38-22 in the paint and held a 39-19 edge in rebounding.
NIU (11-12, 5-6 MAC) took the lead in the early going, taking a five-point lead, 12-7, on a basket by redshirt junior Pete Rakocevic (Chicago, Ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State) just less than six minutes into the contest.
The Huskies led by four after a basket by sophomore Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) with 10:26 to play in the half, but Central Michigan answered with the next six points, taking its first of the contest, 23-21, with 8:36 left in the half.
Rakocevic finished with eight points on 4-of-4 from the field; Baker also added eight points.
NIU responded with a 13-0 burst to take a 34-23 lead with just over three minutes to play before the intermission. Aaric Armstead scored five points during the burst and Balls added five, including a pair of free throws to cap the run, as NIU took an 11-point lead.
Central Michigan (8-15, 1-10 MAC) connected on a pair of triples in the final three minutes to help trim the lead to seven, but Baker hit a pull-up 15-footer to close the scoring in the half, giving NIU a 38-29 lead at the break.
Aaric Armstead scored eight points in the opening 20 minutes to pace the Huskies. Threloff and Rakocevic each added six as the Huskies shot 50 percent (14-of-28) from the field in the first half.
NIU scored the first six points out of the intermission, four of which came from Bowie, to extend the lead to 15, 44-29. The advantage reached 16 on a short corner jumper from Rakocevic with 15:35 to play, but Central Michigan drew back to within a half-dozen, 56-50, with 9:15 left. Chris Fowler fueled the Chippewa run, scoring 11 points during a 20-10 Central Michigan run.
A pair of free throws from both senior Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Akser) and Balls helped push the NIU advantage back to double figures, 60-50, with 8:28 left.
NIU led by a dozen, 68-56, and used a 10-3 burst to push the lead out to 19 with just under two minutes to play. Threloff scored six points during the burst, including a pair of dunks; as the Huskies went on to score their most points against a Division I opponent since scoring 99 on Jan. 6, 2010 against Chicago State.
Fowler scored 19 points to lead Central Michigan; Braylon Rayson added 15 points for the Chippewas.
NIU will take to the road this weekend as the Huskies travel to Akron, Ohio, to face the Zips on Saturday, Feb. 15. Game time at Akron is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.