Western Michigan jumped out to an early lead, 15-4, at the first timeout with 12:40 left in the first half. Thomas Wilder had 6, and Brandon Johnson 4 during the run.
Eugene German and Levi Bradley came off the bench for Northern Illinois, and rallied the Huskies. At the 7:06 TV timeout, the Huskies had the ball and were only down 4, 20-16.
By the next timeout, WMU had stretched the lead a bit to 27-20. The Broncos were balanced on offense, while NIU had 16 from German and Bradley.
At the half, the Broncos led 32-22. While the offense wasn’t great, it was solid. Much more encouraging, if you are a Broncos fan, is that they played great help defense. They held Marin Maric to only 2 points in the first half.
Both teams should be excited for the future after watching the first half, and recent games. Seth Dugan, the sophomore center for Western, had 9 points and 5 rebounds at the break. For the Huskies, freshman Eugene German had 12. Remember that name. He is slender and under 6 feet tall, but he is going to be a player and fun to watch. Cat quick, and has a solid jumper.
The Huskies came out of the break fired up, and closed the lead to 2 at the first timeout of the second half. Then they immediately tied it up on a Marin Maric 18 footer.
An Austin Pauga three gave Northern Illinois their first lead of the game, 39-36, but was quickly answered by Brandon Johnson for a three of his own.
With 11:11 to go, the Broncos built their lead back up to 47-41, but German was going to the line after being fouled taking it coast to coast after a nifty hook shot by Drake LaMont.
The score was 56-52 with 7:32 to go in the game. At this point in the game, I was thinking to myself, “I like games like this.” Neither the offense or defense or either team was dominating. It was just a good, wholesome, all around basketball game.
Marin Maric made a layup and hit the free throw to close the gap, 63-58, with 4:48 to go. That was as close as NIU would get.
Western Michigan did a great job of making NIU beat them with great play, and NIU didn’t. They were able to close out the win with solid basketball all the way around.
76-67, the Broncos won.
The winner for me was the Broncos defense. They held a slight turnover margin, and caused the Huskies to miss more shots.
For the Broncos, 4 starters and Reggie Jones scored in double digits. Thomas Wilder had a crappy shooting night, but scored from the line and led the Broncos with 17, while adding 5 rebound and 5 assists. Tucker Haymond added 16 and 7 rebounds, but it was really a team effort for the Broncos.
German had 20 for the Huskies, and Bradley added 16 points and 9 rebounds.
It was a good game, with a lot of young players from both sides showcasing some talent.
Northern Illinois dropped to 14-11 overall, and 6-6 in the MAC. They host Ball State on Valentines Day.
Western Michigan improves to 9-15 and 5-7 in the MAC. They host Bowling Green the same day.