DeKALB – Northern Illinois couldn’t tame UW-Milwaukee’s offense and bigs, as the Panthers topped the Huskies, 75-62, on Wednesday in front of a Convocation Center crowd of 1,216.
UW-Milwaukee (5-2) had five scorers finish in double figures, and the Panthers outrebounded the Huskies, 39-25, limiting NIU (4-3) to only eight boards in the second half.
“I thought our guys stopped going. We’ve got to get consecutive stops to win basketball games.” NIU coach Mark Montgomery said. “Our foundation and staple is defending and rebounding, and that let us down. We have to get back to our core.”
The Huskies struggled to contain UW-Milwaukee center Brett Prahl. He converted 7 of 8 field goals, scoring 18 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Panthers guard Brock Still played all 40 minutes for the Panthers, scoring 12 points with nine rebounds and four assists.
“[Prahl] is a big body; he’s strong,” NIU center Noah McCarty said. “We didn’t play as hard as we usually play tonight. We’ve got to try our best to not let that happen again.”
NIU failed to string together consistent stops when it mattered most. The Huskies only trailed, 60-58, with 4:49 left, however, UW-Milwaukee ended the game with a 15-4 run.
Montgomery said the Huskies must improve on their fundamentals.
“We’ve got to put a body on a body,” he said. “Man up and play physical; it’s no secret.”
NIU sophomore Eugene German led all scorers with 22 points on
40 percent (8-for-20) shooting. Dante Thorpe and Levi Bradley were NIU’s only other double-digit scorers with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
“We’ve got to communicate better on defense, just talk to each other and play better help side,” German said. “[On offense], when I saw the game was starting to be more out of hand, I was just trying to be more aggressive.”
Most of the Huskies struggles came in the second half. NIU trailed UW-Milwaukee at halftime, 37-33, but were outrebounding the Panthers, 18-17. The Huskies managed eight rebounds in the second half.
“They outworked us; they wanted it more than we did,” Bradley said. “We don’t like [this outcome], we’ve got to get back to work.”
Bradley and German were NIU’s leading rebounders with six each – a stat the Huskies need to work on, Montgomery said.
“It’s hard to win games when you’re playing from behind and they’re shooting the ball at a 63 percent clip [in the second half],” Montgomery said. “I thought our guys fought, we just didn’t have enough in the tank tonight.”
The Huskies travel to Chicago State at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Cougars (2-8) are coming off a 95-69 loss to Marquette.
“We have two days to get ready for Chicago State,” Montgomery said. “When you have a young team, you need more practice time ... We’re going to stay the course. This is just one game. We’re going to make sure our energy and effort is a lot better.”