With the victory, NIU improved to 5-5 on the season and claimed its 10th consecutive home victory dating back to last season. The Huskies never trailed in the contest and shot 47.5 percent (28-of-59) for the game, including 50 percent (15-of-30) in the first half.
Senior Anthony Johnson chipped in 11 points as the Huskies, who led by 11 at the intermission, allowed just 16 second half points.
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“When you come off with 16 steals it means that guys are aggressive, both off and on the ball. We needed a game like this to get us going.”
NIU’s 16 steals was a season-high and just one shy of the most for a Huskie team during Montgomery’s tenure. NIU had 17 steals against Bowling Green in the MAC Tournament First Round last season. Aaron Armstead’s school-record eight steals betters the mark of seven previously held by Kenny Battle (Dec. 29, 1984 vs. Fairfield) and Ronald Minter (Jan. 18, 1996 vs. Cleveland State).
The Huskies held Hampton to just 33.3 percent (16-of-48) shooting, including 23.8 percent (5-of-21) in the second half.
Tied at 21 with nine minutes to play in the first half, junior Travon Baker made a jumper from the wing and Bowie made a pair of free throws to push NIU in front.
The Huskie advantage was just three, 33-30, before NIU closed the first half on a 13-5 run.
Baker jump-started the burst with a triple, Bowie added a bucket and a trifecta as the lead went to 41-32 with 1:28 left before the break. After three free throws from Hampton’s Deron Powers, Bowie converted an old-fashioned three-point play and made two more free throws to give the Huskies a 46-35 lead at the break.
NIU started the second half where it left off in the first, using a 13-4 burst to gain a 20-point edge, 59-39, with 13:51 to play.
Johnson scored NIU’s first three of the second half, sophomore Aaric Armstead added a triple and senior Jordan Threloff scored four during the run.
Reginald Johnson cut the NIU lead to 22, 73-51, with 4:34 to play in the contest, but that would be the last basket the Pirates could score as NIU held Hampton scoreless on its last seven possessions that included a pair of steals from Aaron Armstead to help him set a new school mark.
Dwight Meikle scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead Hampton, who fell to 6-7 on the season.
The Huskies outscored Hampton, 38-14, in the paint and NIU’s reserves outscored their counterparts, 34-9. The Huskies committed a season-low nine turnovers after committing just 10 last time out against Notre Dame.
NIU will return to action on Friday, Jan. 2, as the Huskies close out non-conference play against UC Riverside. Game time against the Highlanders is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the contest will be broadcast on ESPN3.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics/MRO Edit)