DeKALB – With Oakland unable to make many shots in the second half, all it took was a commanding stretch by Eugene German for Northern Illinois to take control in a 74-50 win Monday.
German scored 21, including seven points in 72 seconds, turning a three-point lead into a 31-21 advantage early in the second half. It kicked off a 19-4 run over 7:52 as the Huskies took control for their sixth straight win.
“I was just taking what was there,” German said. “Our defense leads to offense, and that’s basically it. We just played defense and got out on breaks. … Our defense got stops, and that opened some things up for me, and I took what was there.”
The Grizzlies (4-3) didn’t make a field goal in a 10:16 stretch in the second half as the Huskies (6-2) took control.
Oakland had an eight-rebound advantage at the break, but NIU outrebounded the Grizzlies by six in the second half. Trendon Hankerson said that improvement, and the defense on the 6-foot-7 duo of Xavier Hill-Mais and Daniel Oladapo, was the difference.
“Defensively, we knew they had two aggressive bigs, so our No. 1 focus was to contain, have them kick the ball out to the perimeter players,” Hankerson said. But the biggest thing for us was rebounding. We did a great job on the boards. Shoutout to Lacey James. Thirteen boards, that’s a huge performance for him. That helped us get the win.”
The teams were within single digits of each other throughout the first half, with NIU leading most of the way. German made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to push the Huskies’ lead to five.
Oladapo scored a minute into the second half, but it was the last field goal the Grizzlies would get until Kenny Pittman hit a 3-pointer with 8:44 left, cutting the NIU lead to 55-38.
The Huskies were 13 of 24 on 3-pointers, including 3 of 5 for German and
4 of 5 for Hankerson. Seven Huskies made a 3-pointer.
“Coach is not one of those guys to tell us not to shoot,” Hankerson said. “He just tells us to take better shots if we’re taking bad shots at the time. We’re always trying to get the best look we can whether it’s 3s or inside.”
While he may not tell them not to shoot, NIU coach Mark Montgomery said while he prefers the inside game to outside shots.
“To be honest, the 3-point shot is not my favorite shot,” Montgomery said. “But we have to take what the defense gives us. Especially when you have German, and he’s penetrating in, and he’s willing to make that extra pass, Hankerson is shooting over 55% from 3, and he made them tonight.”
By the numbers: Hankerson scored 14 for the Huskies, and their next-highest scorer was McCarty with seven. McCarty also had seven boards to go with James’ 13, and no other Huskie had more than Darius Beane’s four. McCarty and James also were among the Huskies with a made 3. Oladapo finished with 13 points and six rebounds, while Hill-Mais had 13 points and eight rebounds. The Grizzlies were 3 of 21 from 3-point range and 15-50 from the floor, including 4 of 22 in the second half.
Beyond the stats: It was the first of four straight games against Mid-American Conference opponents for Oakland, all on the road. It faces Toledo on Saturday, Western Michigan on Dec. 3 and Bowling Green on Dec. 7.
They said it: “I was trying to get more aggressive,” German said of his stretch early in the second half. “I was trying to extend the lead. And we took off from there.”
Up next: The Huskies head to St. Mary’s on Dec. 5.