Men’s basketball: NIU closes regular season with win against Eastern Michigan

Nutter scores 19, Thornton 17 in Huskies’ MAC victory

Northern Illinois Huskies guard Zarique Nutter goes baseline against Buffalo Bulls forward Isaiah Adams Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, during their conference matchup at the Convocation Center at NIU.

The NIU men’s basketball team closed the regular season leading wire to wire in an 85-66 Mid-American Conference win against Eastern Michigan on Friday at the Convocation Center in DeKalb in a game moved to a noon start time.

Zarique Nutter scored a team-high 19 points, and Kaleb Thornton had his third double-double of the season with 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Huskies (13-18, 9-9 MAC) against he Eagles (8-23, 5-13).

Darweshi Hunter scored 13 points and Harvin Ibarguen scored 12, going 6 for 6 from the field with a team-best seven rebounds for NIU. Anthony Crump added 10 points.

“Today was an unbelievable performance by our seniors, and our entire team,” NIU coach Rashon Burno said. “We were disappointed coming out of the Buffalo game [Tuesday, a 10-point loss after clinching a MAC tournament berth the game before]. Anytime you play at home, you want to play your best for your family and friends, students. I thought our guys had the right intentions, a little adversity with the weather change, moving the time up, it messed up our prep, but these guys showed that they understood what we needed to do to win the game.

“It was a great performance from start to finish. We led for 39 minutes, and going into Cleveland [for the MAC Tournament], I think we are a team that can get some wins if we do the things we are capable of, and that is playing clean, not turning the ball over and using and trusting each other.”

The MAC tournament begins Thursday. The No. 7 Huskies will face No. 2 Kent State in the third game of the day, which should start at around 5 p.m.