BY LUCAS SRODULSKI
ROSEMONT – Mark Montgomery paced the sideline, yelling and waving his arms even more than the demonstrative coach usually does.
It was a frustrating night for the Northern Illinois coach and his team, as the Huskies fell 78-67 to a hot-shooting DePaul team at Allstate Arena on Tuesday night.
“You have to give DePaul a lot of credit,” Montgomery said. “We probably caught them on their best night shooting threes.”
Sophomore guard Aaric Armstead led the way with 16 points and four rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Blue Demons’ 11-for-22 shooting from 3-point range.
NIU (3-2) got off to a good start by running good half-court offense, using ball movement to open up driving lanes. Junior forward Darrell Bowie had nine points within the first nine minutes off of four close-range buckets and a free throw.
The problem was that the Huskies couldn’t consistently get into that offense due to DePaul’s 2-2-1 press. They continually turned it over, and the Blue Demons took advantage with 19 points off of those 13 first-half turnovers.
“That press really bothered us,” Montgomery said. “We have the same press, but sometimes that length and quickness, you can’t simulate in practice.”
When DePaul (4-1) got out to a 35-21 lead, Montgomery elected to go to a 2-3 zone in an effort to cut off drives. It worked, and with the Huskies allowing hardly any second chances, they were able to finish the half on an 8-3 run.
The heavy pressure continued after the break, causing NIU to have a tough time even inbounding the ball. DePaul was threatening to blow the Huskies out before junior transfer Chuks Iroegbu came in off the bench an provided an offensive spark by getting to the rim.
“That was his best game in an NIU uniform,” Montgomery said of Iroegbu, whose parents flew in from California to see the game. “He didn’t play well the other night, and he bounced back.”
The intensity was there from the NIU defense, but the Blue Demons were simply hitting shots – namely Forrest Robinson, who knocked down four three-pointers. Conversely, the Huskies shot 2 for 11 from deep.
The Huskies went on a quick run, getting as close at 63-54 on a Michael Orris three-pointer, but they wouldn’t get closer than that. DePaul was able to break the press and finish with several emphatic dunks to seal it.
“We’ll learn from that,” Montgomery said of the loss. “The preseason games are what get you ready for conference, and once we get to conference, hopefully we’ll be rolling.”
NIU will head to Eastern Illinois on Saturday for its next matchup.