Created:Saturday, January 7, 2012 7:23 p.m.CDT
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Huskies zoned out, drop MAC opener to EMU

By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@shawmedia.com

DeKALB – Mark Montgomery didn't need to take a look at the stat sheet to confirm what he saw.

His Northern Illinois team wasn't aggressive on offense, settled for three-pointers and couldn't make the long-distance shots in Saturday's 47-40 loss against Eastern Michigan at the Convocation Center.

Despite that, a stout defense kept the Huskies within a possession until the final minute. The Huskies missed two three-pointers down the stretch, making them 7 of 30 from behind the arc in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.

"I thought taking 30 threes, if you take away the last two you take 28 threes, that's just too many threes," Montgomery said. "I think that we needed to maybe penetrate more or work through the high post and get some things going. But if those shots are going in, we're all happy right now."

NIU (1-12, 0-1 MAC) went the final 26:16 without a two-point field goal, as Eastern Michigan's (6-9, 1-0) varied zones, length and athleticism frustrated the Huskies into shooting from the outside for the majority of the loss.

Tim Toler's jumper with 6:17 left in the first half was the final two-point field goal of the game for the Huskies.

"We have to have more balance and I think we'll be better next time we play them or against another team that wants to zone for the whole game," Montgomery said.

Led by freshman guards Zach Miller (nine points, four assists) and Marquavese Ford (two steals), the Huskies were able to hold Eastern Michigan to only five second-half field goals and at one point in the first half had 10 consecutive stops. That allowed NIU to take a four-point lead near the end of the half after trailing by 11 early.

"We held them to 47 points at home and I think looking forward we've got to be able to score more than 40 at home," Miller said. "Holding a team under 50, that's a good job on our part."

But with 7-foot center Da'Shonte Riley anchoring Eastern Michigan's zone, the undersized Huskies didn't spend too much time inside, despite some early success in the first half.

"Our scouting report said that Riley likes to stand straight up," Montgomery said. "I thought Keith Gray did a great job of demonstrating that. In the first half, he took it right at him and sure enough, it was a foul. But those guys are long and it's not as easy to get those passes in there as you think."

Montgomery said the Huskies will work to figure out how to attack zone defenses as they prepare for their first MAC road trip of the season on Wednesday at Western Michigan.

"It's just disappointing because the guys know how close they were in this game, and you want to win," Montgomery said. "I thought we put ourselves in position. But the ball has to go in."

Given a full slate of games against Big Ten teams, which team finishes with the best record?
NIU
Purdue
Northwestern