The NIU men’s basketball team shot 51 percent from the field, including 57.1 percent in the second half, to earn a 78-67 victory over Idaho Thursday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Junior Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Consortium) added 14 points while redshirt senior Jordan Threloff (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb/Illinois State) chipped in 11 points and a team-best nine rebounds. NIU shot 42.1 percent (8-of-19) from three-point range while holding Idaho to just 21.7 percent (5-of-23) shooting from deep.
With the victory, NIU has now won seven straight home games, dating back to last season, the longest home winning streak for NIU since the 1995-96 season.
“It was a hard fought win,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “Give Idaho credit, they wouldn’t go away, they are a well-coached team. Going into the game we knew that their guards were playmakers and thank goodness Connor Hill had an off-night (3-of-14 shooting). Credit our guys too; they were there on the catch (defensively), Idaho made some tough plays but I thought we got off to an incredible start, got the crowd into it, and I liked how our guys came out with great energy, great effort and shared the basketball.”
NIU (2-0) jumped out to an early nine-point lead in the opening five minutes of the contest. Baker and Bowie each scored five points as the Huskies took a 14-5 advantage in the early stages of the contest.
Idaho (2-1) answered with an 11-0 burst, to take its first lead, 16-14, with 10:55 to play in the opening half.
Even at 21, the Huskies used a 7-0 run to take a 28-21 lead with 4:38 to play in the opening stanza.
Junior Chuks Iroegbu (Elk Grove, Calif./Franklin/City College of San Francisco) opened the run with a triple from the wing, Bowie added a pair of free throws and redshirt freshman Marin Maric (Split, Croatia/La Lumiere School) finished the burst with a layup off a feed from redshirt sophomore Michael Orris (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee/Kansas State).
Orris finished the contest with a career-best seven assists to go along with three points and three steals.
After Idaho trimmed the NIU lead to a half-dozen, 31-25, the Huskies ended the opening 20 minutes with an 8-2 spurt to take a 39-27 lead into the intermission. Redshirt senior Pete Rakocevic (Chicago, Ill./Wilbraham & Monson/Sacramento State) started the run with a 17-footer, Baker added a trifecta from a corner and Aaric Armstead made three from the charity stripe as the Huskies took a 12-point lead into the break.
Bowie led all scorers with nine points in the opening half; Sekou Wiggs paced the Vandals with eight.
Idaho opened the second half with a 9-2 burst to cut the NIU lead to just five, 41-36, but Aaric Armstead responded for NIU with a corner triple to push the lead back to eight.
With the NIU advantage at six, 46-40, Bowie scored off an offensive rebound and Aaric Armstead canned a triple to push the Huskie lead back to double figures, 51-40.
The NIU lead grew to 13 on an old-fashioned three-point play by Iroegbu, but the Vandals responded with the next eight, cutting the Huskie lead to 59-54 with 9:18 to play.
With each Idaho burst, the Huskies had an answer as an 8-2 spurt helped push the NIU advantage back to double-digits, 68-58, with just over five minutes left. NIU made 10-of-12 free throws in the final three minutes to thwart a final comeback attempt and hand Idaho its first loss of the season.
Wiggs led the Vandals with a game-high 18 points, Mike Scott added 17 and Bira Seck pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
NIU will return to action Wednesday, Nov. 26, at the Huskies head on the road for the first time this season as they travel to Iowa City to meet the Iowa Hawkeyes. Game time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., and will be broadcast on ESPN3.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.