DeKALB – It's been a season-long struggle on the offensive end of the floor for Northern Illinois this year.
Outside of a 72-point outburst in its home opener against Judson University, an NAIA opponent, NIU had averaged a mere 52 points per game coming into Tuesday's contest against Illinois-Chicago.
Once again, a lack of execution offensively hurt the Huskies as NIU shot just 33 percent from the field in a 58-46 loss to the Flames.
NIU (1-4) travels to Dayton on Saturday.
"We're a young team. I thought we had some open looks and we just kind of missed them," NIU coach Mark Montgomery said. "I thought we were getting some good shots, but if the ball doesn't go in at a consistent basis, you tend to press a little bit."
NIU's year-long offensive struggles continued in the first half against UIC.
The Huskies poor shooting was compounded by eight first-half turnovers. For the game, the Huskies had just one more made field goal (16) than turnovers (15).
NIU went through a five-minute scoring drought in the first half before a Mike Davis layup brought the Huskies within six. After Davis hit a long jumper from the left wing, the Huskies endured another four-minute stretch without a point.
"We just tried to make it tough for them to get to the basket," UIC coach Howard Moore said. "They have really good guys who can put their head down and go. They are not shooting the ball very well from the perimeter so we wanted to make sure they didn't get easy paint touches."
NIU's defense kept the Huskies close in the first half as UIC (5-1) struggled offensively as well, shooting just 11 for 30 from the field.
A Darrell Bowie jumper from the elbow at the horn cut the UIC halftime lead to 27-19.
"Hopefully our offense will catch up with our defense," Montgomery said. "Because we're holding teams under 60 points and 40 percent shooting."
NIU could never quite close the deficit in the second half.
A nice pass along the baseline from J.J. Cravatta set up Kevin Gray for a layup, plus the foul, to cut the UIC lead to 38-33.
Two free throws from freshman Akeem Springs followed by defensive stop left NIU down, 51-44, with three minutes to go, but another turnover allowed UIC to push the lead back to nine, and the Flames made enough free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Sam Mader led the Huskies with 15 points off the bench. Bowie had six points and four rebounds in the loss.
Sophomore Abdel Nader, who was suspended indefinitely for an undisclosed violation of team rules prior to the season opener, participated in warm-up drills before Tuesday's game, but did not play. Montgomery did not disclose a specific date for Nader's return to the court.
"He's getting closer," Montgomery said. "He has a uniform on now...and it's right around the corner."