DeKALB – Points were plentiful and came quickly for Northern Illinois men’s basketball in a 111-61 win at home against Saint Joseph’s College (Ind.) on Sunday.
Although the Huskies were hosting a Division II team playing its second game of a back-to-back, scoring hasn’t been something that’s come easy to NIU in the past three seasons.
Early on this year, NIU had yet to to break the 70-point mark in four games, averaging only 61.3 points a game in the nonconference. But the Huskies scored their most points since a 121-88 win over Rockford College in 2000.
NIU (2-3) also set season highs in free-throw percentage and field-goal percentage, shooting 23 of 32 from the free-throw line and making 50 percent of its field-goal attempts.
“I think when you have a week until your next game sometimes you just need practice. We had some very competitive practices three days in a row, and I think that helped going into this game,” NIU coach Mark Montgomery said. “We watched some film, got up early, shot some free throws. We had a couple team meetings and I thought it paid off.”
NIU was credited with only 12 fastbreak points, but the Huskies were able to get out in transition more often than in their previous four games, leading to easy buckets. Montgomery said the Huskies were able to grab clean rebounds and wanted to run on both makes and misses.
For a team that entered the game shooting only 37 percent from the field, it was good to see.
“It was a big confidence booster, but I have to give credit to the guards for getting out and running,” said J.J. Cravatta, who finished with 20 points. “I have the easy job just to knock down open shots. I have to give the guards credit and the bigs credit.”
Darrell Bowie led the Huskies with 23 points and 12 rebounds and shot 11 of 14 from the free-throw line. Aaron Armstead had 13 points while Marin Maric chipped in with 12.
After five consecutive games at home to start the season, NIU will travel to Nebraska on Saturday for its first road contest of the year.
Montgomery said he’d like to see another competitive week of practice leading up to next weekend. Even on Thanksgiving, the team will be practicing. Through five games it’s too early to draw conclusions, but we’ll find out a little bit more as the Huskies leave the Convocation Center and return to play actual Division I competition.
“I tell our team we could easily be undefeated or we could easily be just one win,” Montgomery said. “It’s still early in the year. We’re just trying to get better every day.”