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MID-SEASON REVIEW: Mixed bag for NIU men’s basketball

Northern Illinois is halfway through its 2013-14 season, and will begin the second half tonight against Ohio at 7 p.m. The Huskies are a game under .500 at 7-8, but have already won more games this year than they had in each of coach Mark Montgomery’s first two seasons.

NIU still has some time before it’s an NCAA Tournament contender, but there are things to look forward to in DeKalb.

At the midway point of the season, the Daily Chronicle took a look at three positives, and three negatives from NIU’s first 15 games.

The positives

1. Defense, defense, defense

NIU has been a good defensive team this season, allowing 64.6 points a game. The total ranked 49th in the country through Thursday’s contests.

On Sunday, the Huskies held Bowling Green to just 36 points, the lowest total by an NIU opponent since 1991. In Wednesday’s loss to Kent State, the Golden Flashes scored 58 points in regulation, nearly 15 points below their season average.

2. Darrell Bowie

The sophomore forward has emerged as a guy who can get to the basket and score, averaging 9.5 points A game.

He’s also the team’s top rebounder (7.4 points a game) by nearly two boards a contest.

3. The Armsteads

NIU looks like it has a couple of nice players in freshman guard Aaric Armstead and his brother, junior guard Aaron.

Aaron Armstead averages 7.3 points a game off the bench, and Aaric has started the past four contests in place of the injured Dontel Highsmith and averaged nine points a game during that span.

What hasn’t gone right

1. The injury bug

The Huskies were dealt a big blow when talented freshman guard Dontel Highsmith suffered a torn ACL in December against Iowa State.

Highsmith was the team’s leading scorer, averaging 10.5 points a game before the injury.

Freshman big man Marin Maric is out for the season with a foot injury, and senior guard Antone Christian (MCL) is out but is expected to be back next month.

2. Scoring

NIU still has trouble scoring consistently and, without Highsmith, there isn’t a single Huskie who averages in double figures. The Huskies rank last in the MAC, averaging just 63.1 points a game.

3. Inside production

Much was made of the added size brought to the Huskies this season, in 6-foot-9 center Jordan Threloff, an Illinois State transfer and DeKalb High School product, 6-11 Sacramento State transfer Pete Rakocevic, who sat out last season because of NCAA’s transfer rules, and 6-10 Marin Maric.

However, fans would probably like to see more from the Huskies’ big men. Threloff is averaging 6.8 points a game and Rakocevic is recording 4.3 points a contest.

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