DeKALB – If you like fast-paced basketball, Northern Illinois should be a fun team to watch this season.
Before the 2014-15 campaign, NIU head coach Mark Montgomery talked about having the depth to play a full-court game.
In Wednesday's season opener against Aurora University at the NIU Convocation Center, the Huskies did just that in a dominating 86-56 win.
NIU (1-0) pressed the Spartans all day. The Huskies would force finish the game with eight steals against a Division III program and were able to get points in transition. While it's a program picked to finish first in its conference, the Division III program was clearly overmatched.
"At times, our press was just trying to slow the other team up, so they don't get a free dribble up the court. We thought at times it sped them up, sometimes it gets us going, too," Montgomery said. "On the defensive end we were very solid. We held them under 60 points, and we thought we dictated tempo in the game."
The Huskies would use a fast-paced run-and-gun attack, playing 10 players, including true freshman Chuks Iroegbu, who would play 23 minutes and finish with six points in his NIU debut. Iroegbu is the only true freshman on scholarship for the Huskies.
Jordan Threloff finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds for the Huskies, as NIU looked to pound the ball inside against the Spartans, a team which obviously didn't have Division I size. Aaric Armstead added 17 points and eight boards for NIU, while Aaron Armstead had 11 points and two rebounds and Pete Rakocevic finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
"Coach Monty had us running up and down and doing a lot of conditioning and everything (in the offseason)," Threloff said. "It's going to help us in the long run. We're going to be conditioned, we're going to be ready to play where other teams are going to get tired."
NIU had 10 players get minutes on Saturday, as the Huskies were without guards Anthony Johnson and Dontel Highsmith. Highsmith is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last December, while Johnson, a transfer from Purdue, is dealing with an ankle injury.
Highsmith will be back this season, and Saturday Montgomery said Johnson should be ready to go for Thursday's game at Idaho. The Huskies and Vandals will tip off at 8 p.m. at the Convocation Center as the second half of a men's-women's doubleheader.
Depth will play a key factor in the Huskies' success this season.
"We're going to try to wear teams down," Montgomery said. "I don't think there's much separation from our 1-10 and good teams have bodies [they're] going to use. You're on scholarship, you're going to be on the floor playing.
"We want to play at this pace, we want to play a little bit more efficient. We're definitely going to play 10-11 bodies each game."