After a nip-and-tuck first 15 minutes of the game, the Northern Illinois Huskies (5-5) scored in a flurry against the Olivet Nazarene Tigers and never looked back in the 95-69 win Saturday night. The win brings NIU back to .500 with a handful of games left on the non-conference slate, and getting some confidence in a win like this one can do the team a lot of good before it heads into the grind of MAC play.
It was a battle between the two teams for much of the first half as neither one could hold a lead for very long before the other answered. At the end of the half however, the Huskies took complete control of the game as they reeled off a 20-5 run to head into the locker room with a 47-35 lead. A pair of buckets by Marin Maric and Justin Thomas helped kickstart the run while Austin Pauga cashed in on a couple of three-point attempts.
The Tigers never recovered in the second half as NIU pretty much had its way offensively with four treys in the half, three of which coming from Aaric Armstead. Maric had himself a night with 22 points, nine rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal as six players recorded double figures in points on the night, including four starters. Armstead was on point from long range as he had 16 points after going 4-5 from three-point land as well as five boards, three assists, and a pair of steals.
Despite Armstead’s efforts, the team still shot 8-23 from distance as Olivet Nazarene matched up with Northern Illinois well in most statistical categories. Where the home team had a huge advantage was on the glass as the Huskies hauled in 37 rebounds (23 defensive) while the Tigers only pulled down 24 (16 defensive). The hosts were able to pull away and keep ONU down thanks to the extra possessions on the boards, but they’ll have to learn to take better shots against more legitimate opponents.
NIU hits the road this weekend to take on Florida International Saturday at 6 p.m.