Men's basketball looks to sweep season series with NIU in Dekalb


 Senior guard Josh Kozinski passes the ball during the basketball game against Miami Ohio on Jan. 23 at McGuirk Arena. 

Following up a pair of back-to-back losses, the Central Michigan men’s basketball team wants to bounce back against a Mid-American Conference foe they have had success against.

CMU (15-10, 4-8 MAC) will head to Dekalb, Ill. to take on Northern Illinois (11-14, 4-8) at 8 p.m. on Feb. 13 in the NIU Convocation Center. It will be a rematch of CMU’s 81-67 over the Huskies on Jan. 30 from McGuirk Arena.

Both teams are currently tied for fifth in the MAC West Division, trailing first place Toledo (18-7, 10-2) by six games with six regular season league games remaining.

Chippewa head coach Keno Davis said his team was disappointed in its loss to Akron.

“Our guys are obviously upset we didn’t get the win,” Davis said. “It’s more important we turn the page and learn to get better than it is to feel like we missed an opportunity.” 

The one statistic that stood apart from the rest against the Zips was CMU’s inability to make free throws — going 10-of-21 (47.6 percent) from the line. It was uncharacteristic of the Chippewas, who are No. 1 in the MAC on the season from the free-throw-line at 79.6 percent. 

Combining that with a 5-of-22 performance from deep, Davis said it wasn't hard to figure out how his team lost.

“Those aren’t good numbers to be able to win on the road,” Davis said. “If we shot normal from the free throw line and normal from the three, it might have been a different outcome. We talked about it in the locker room, but we can’t be talking about excuses.”

Davis said for the upcoming games, everyone on his bench needs to be ready for live game action.

“Those guys that might not play need to be ready because you never know when your number is going to be called. We will try to get some reps for those guys.,” Davis said. “We have to have energy and legs to play and shoot the way we want to.”

Scouting NIU

Unlike the Chippewas who come in as losers of their previous two contests, the Huskies are coming off a 90-88 upset over MAC West Division leader Buffalo.

NIU has posted a 9-2 record at home, with four of those wins coming against MAC opponents. This is the second game of a three-game home stand for NIU.

The Huskies sit at eighth place in scoring offense (74.4 points per game) and defense (75.1) in the conference. While they do hold the MAC’s No. 2 field goal percentage (46.4 percent) they've only managed to shoot 33.3 percent from beyond the arc, ranking 11th in the MAC.

Sophmore guard Eugene German will have the spotlight on him as he does every week as the leagues leading scorer at 20 points per game. Junior forward Levi Bradley is tied for 17th at 14.6 points per, while junior guard Dante Thorpe rounds out the top-30 at 11.7 per.

Recent History

When the two teams met earlier this season, CMU senior guard Josh Kozinski had the highlight performance of his career.

The Edwardsburg native dropped a career-high 24 points and eight 3-pointers, while breaking the program record for the most 3-pointers in school history, previously held by Braylon Rayson in 2016.

German did score 21 points and the Huskies made just under 68 percent of their second half shots to stay in the game, but were no match for Kozinski’s parade of triples.