DeKALB – Lacey James had nowhere to hide after Miami (Ohio)’s Bam Bowman embarrassed him Saturday afternoon, rejecting his dunk attempt at the rim and stealing away the ball in one fluid motion.
The sequence late in the second half of Saturday’s game was part of a devastating knockout blow by the RedHawks, as they routed the Huskies, 81-65, at the Convocation Center, handing Northern Illinois its first Mid-American Conference home loss of the season.
“We got punched in the mouth, and we didn’t respond,” said James, who finished with nine points and three rebounds in 23 minutes.
NIU (10-13, 3-7) struggled to score early on, and its drought extended throughout the game. The Huskies shot 34.5 percent from the field in the first half.
A lot of the their offensive struggles stemmed from sophomore Eugene German, the MAC’s leading scorer. He had his worst outing of the year, finishing with a season-low 10 points, well short of his average of 19.6 points a game.
German made 2 of 9 baskets, including 1 of 3 from deep and 5 of 6 from the free-throw line. He committed four of NIU’s seven turnovers and dished out only one assist.
He credited Miami’s defense, however, and took most of the fall for NIU’s struggles on offense.
“They pressured me pretty well, but I had an off night,” German said. “We had ball movement. I blame it on me. I tried to go in too many times. It was pretty bad.”
NIU didn’t allow Miami to score a field goal during the last 4:25 of the first half, but still trailed, 38-28, at halftime.
Miami dominated the Huskies in every imaginable way in the second half. Nike Sibande finished with a game-best 20 points and seven rebounds. Galen Adawa, Isaiah Coleman-Lands and Jake Wright all joined Sibande in double-digit scoring. Colemand-Lands torched NIU from long range, making 4 of 5 3-point attempts.
NIU coach Mark Montgomery said his team wasn’t ready to play Saturday.
“Miami, in all phases of the game, they outplayed us,” Montgomery said. “Our sense of urgency at the beginning wasn’t there. We missed some tough shots early. That affected our defense. We didn’t come out aggressive enough.”
“I kept using the word and sense of urgency. You’ve got to be ready to compete. You have to play hard. It just seemed like Miami wanted it more.”
By the numbers: The RedHawks outrebounded the Huskies, 34-25, and shot 65.4 percent (17 of 26) during the second half, finishing 58.2 percent (32 of 55) from the field for the game.
Beyond the stats: When asked about his reaction to the allegations regarding his alma mater, Michigan State, coach Mark Montgomery did not comment through a school official.
They said it: “We can’t hang our heads even though it was a bad loss. We’ve got to come into practice and be ready to move on. We’ve got to be ready to work tomorrow,” said sophomore Justin Thomas, who finished with a team-best 14 points on 5 of 8 shooting.
Up next: NIU faces MAC rival Toledo at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Huskies are winless (0-6) on the road in conference play. Miami concludes a two-game road swing at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Western Michigan.