Trailing by 23 at halftime, the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team stormed back in the second half to tie the game twice, before falling, 71-67, to third-seeded Bowling Green on Friday night (March 15) in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Semifinals at Quicken Loans Arena.
Junior Eugene German (Gary, Ind./21st Century Charter) scored a game-high 31 points, on 12-of-18 shooting from the field, and senior Levi Bradley (Milwaukee, Wis./Pius XI) added 16 points for the Huskies.
In a complete role reversal of two halves, NIU shot 64.3 percent (18-of-28) in the second half as they outscored Bowling Green, 44-25, but the Falcons shot 60.7 percent (17-of-28) in the first stanza, including 6-of-10 from three, to build a 46-23 lead at the break.
NIU (17-17) scored the first eight out of the intermission. Senior Dante Thorpe (Washington, D.C./Thorpe) knocked in a triple, German netted the next three and Bradley added a bucket to force an early timeout from the Falcons.
A 10-0 Huskie run, sparked by a trifecta in the corner from Bradley, brought the Huskies within seven. Junior Noah McCarty (Rock Falls, Ill./Sterling Newman) added a basket and German scored the next five, including an old-fashioned three-point play, as the Bowling Green lead was trimmed to 48-41 with 13:13 left.
German moved into sixth-place on NIU’s all-time scoring list in the contest as his 31 points gives him 1,569 in three seasons as a Huskie.
The Falcon lead was nine before back-to-back buckets from German trimmed the Bowling Green advantage to 56-51 and ignited a 9-0 run that brought the Huskies even. A pair of free throws by Bradley got the Huskies within a possession and McCarty knocked in a triple to bring NIU even, 56-56, with just over five minutes to go.
Even at 58, Bowling Green (22-11) went on a 7-0 run to take a 65-58 lead with 2:20 left to play. The Huskies battled back to within three but the Falcons went 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute to preserve the victory.
Dylan Frye led Bowling Green with 25 points, Justin Turner added 14 and Daeqwon Plowden scored 12 points.
German scored the first seven for the Huskies as NIU made the quicker start, taking a 7-1 lead in the opening three minutes of the contest. Bowling Green answered right back with the next six to pull even at seven.
With the game knotted at 11, Bowling Green made three consecutive triples as the Falcons took a 20-11 lead with just under 12 minutes to play in the opening stanza, forcing a Huskie timeout.
German responded with a triple and Bradley made it a five-point NIU burst as the Huskies pulled back within four, 20-16.
The Huskies were within three, 24-21, when German made a free throw with 7:08 to play before the break, but Bowling Green then closed the half on a 22-2 run as the Falcons took a 46-23 lead into halftime.
With the victory, Bowling Green advances to face top-seeded Buffalo on Saturday night, March 16, in the MAC Tournament Final at Quicken Loans Arena.