DeKALB — Northern Illinois men's basketball coach Mark Montgomery called Saturday's 53-46 loss to Loyola a "grinder game."
The Huskies and Ramblers scored just 31 points — combined, in the first half. NIU (1-3) shot just 6 of 27 (22 percent) from the field prior to halftime, but still trailed by just one basket entering the break.
In the end, Loyola (4-2) pulled away in the second half, as the Huskies' cold first half cost them.
"I thought that we had some patience," Montgomery said. "I thought we took care of the ball in both halves, but we definitely have to see the ball go in the basket."
The only reason NIU even went into halftime with a fighting chance was its defense, which kept Loyola in check despite the offense not being able to get on the scoreboard.
Ramblers coach Porter Moser said the Huskies defense played hard, and played tough. He mentioned how Montgomery's team took advantage when Loyola was sloppy with the ball. It showed, with the Ramblers turning it over 16 times.
"I've got to give Northern some credit," Moser said. "Every time we were soft with the ball, they had active hands, they were quick and tough to get in there. That's the style [Montgomery]'s trying to promote. That's good."
While he saw his team miss shot after shot Saturday, Montgomery wanted to credit his young team's defense The Huskies started two freshmen and two sophomores Saturday, but it didn't show on the defensive end.
"I think we changed our mindset. Coach has done a real good job of emphasizing defense, and I think we're doing a real good job of doing that," freshman shooting guard Akeem Springs said. "We had a slow start, but at the same time, we defended. ... As long as we defend I think that we'll be fine. Even though we have a young team I think the offense will start coming later."
Saturday's defensive effort wasn't quite enough, however, thanks to the Ramblers' run midway through the second half when they built their lead.
"You have to credit our defense," Montgomery said. "We're a young group, but we said no matter what we're going to check for 40 minutes and I think we checked for every bit of 35."
NIU's bright spot on offense was Springs, who finished with a team-high 15 points, and was the only Huskie in double digits.
Montgomery said Springs, the Huskies' leading scorer going into the game, was aggressive, but added that his team needs to find another player who can score.
Freshmen point guards Daveon Balls and Travon Baker added six points for the Huskies, while Aksel Bolin and Darrell Bowie finished with five.
"We need multiple scorers," Montgomery said, "if you're going to definitely win games like this."