Redshirt senior center Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds Saturday as the NIU men’s basketball team claimed an 86-56 victory over Aurora in the regular season opener at the NIU Convocation Center.
Sophomore guard Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) also added 17 points as the Huskies won their season opener for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
“A big key for us today was to pound the ball inside and I thought we did a great job of that,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “We shared the ball, we played hard, we played with great energy and we came away with the win.”
The Huskies recorded 17 offensive rebounds leading to 27 second chance points while only allowing five second chance points to Aurora.
Aurora stayed close with the Huskies in the early going as NIU led 16-14 with just over 11 minutes to play in the opening half, but an 8-0 NIU run pushed the lead to 10 with 8:44 left in the half. Aaric Armstead opened the burst with a bucket, redshirt freshman Marin Maric (Split, Croatia/La Lumiere School) and redshirt senior Pete Rakocevic (Chicago, Ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State) each added a pair of free throws and redshirt junior Chuks Iroegbu (Elk Grove, Calif./Franklin/City College of San Francisco) had a layup on the break as the Huskies took a 24-14 advantage.
Rakocevic finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
A basket by Joe Kwiatkowski brought Aurora back within eight, 26-18, with six-and-a-half minutes to play in the half before NIU answered with a 12-0 burst to push the lead to 20.
Junior Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Consortium) started the run with a triple; redshirt sophomore Michael Orris (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee/Kansas Staet) added a free throw before back-to-back old-fashioned three-point plays from Aaric Armstead and junior Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep). Bowie capped the run with two more free throws as NIU led 38-18 with three minutes left before the intermission.
The Spartans cut the NIU advantage back to 42-25 at the intermission. Aaric Armstead led all scorers with 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. Threloff had eight points and eight rebounds before the break.
After Aurora had cut the NIU lead back to 14, NIU answered with the next eight to push its advantage to 22, 55-33, with 15:49 to play.
The NIU led remained near 20 until the final seven minutes of the contest as the Huskies finished the game on a 16-6 burst to earn the 30-point victory.
Kyle Pilmer led Aurora with 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting; he also pulled down a team-best six rebounds for the Spartans.
NIU will return to action on Thursday, Nov. 20, as it hosts Idaho at 8 p.m., in the second half of a doubleheader with the Huskie women’s basketball team. The NIU women begin the evening against Valparaiso at 6 p.m., both games will be broadcast live on ESPN3.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.