DeKALB – Before the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team’s 57-41 loss to Bowling Green on Wednesday, the Huskies thought they had put their poor offensive showing against Eastern Michigan, when they scored only four points in the first half, behind them.
They put more shots up in practice, and coach Mark Montgomery altered shoot-arounds to fix their ailing offense. NIU scored 65 and 64 points in its past two games.
“We learned from it, we moved forward,” freshman Darrell Bowie said. “We came out, we knew we needed to be more aggressive … We learned to be patient, and take what the defense gives us.”
But Wednesday, when they played a team that had gone 0-8 on the road, the Huskies’ offense fizzled.
Less than three minutes in, Bowling Green (9-13, 4-5 Mid-American Conference) led 8-0. In the first seven minutes, the Falcons made more field goals than the Huskies would sink all half.
“They shot some uncontested shots,” Montgomery said. “We were sleeping on defense.”
Abdel Nader kept the Huskies (6-15, 3-6 MAC) afloat with seven first-half points, but he didn’t receive much help. For the first 18 minutes, the sophomore was the only Huskie to make a field goal.
“That ball wouldn’t go in early, and it gives you confidence when you see the ball go in the basket,” Montgomery said. “We didn’t get anything easy. All of a sudden, you’re down 8-0, and you press a little bit.”
After trailing, 30-15, at the break, the Huskies were better in the second half, hitting 10 of 22 shots. But they weren’t able to make a dent in Bowling Green’s sizable lead.
The Huskies rank second-to-last in the country in field goal percentage after a 27.5 percent shooting night.
Montgomery said the issues that plagued the Huskies on Wednesday were different from the problems that made their offense a national punch-line three games ago against Eastern Michigan.
In that game, the Huskies put up 33 3-pointers; this time, the Huskies took only 13. Quick, ill-advised shots were aplenty against the Eagles; on Wednesday, missed layups and open shots were especially prevalent.
Rather than bad shot selection, Montgomery said the problem had to do with psychology.
“I thought we were a step slow tonight, and it was like we were running in quick sand,” Montgomery said. “We’ve had games like that, but you need a spark off the bench, you need a spark from your fans, you need something to get things going in the different direction. It really didn’t happen until … 12 minutes were left in the game, but it’s too late then.”