Freshman Marshawn Wilson (Oakdale, Minn./Hill-Murray) scored a game-high 22 points but the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team was unable to slow down the Ohio as it fell, 79-62, on Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Quarterfinals.
The Bobcats shot 50.8 percent (30-of-59) from the field, including 48.3 percent (14-of-29) from behind the three-point line, while holding NIU to just 36.1 percent (22-of-61) shooting.
“That was a hard fought game, give the credit to Ohio,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “They came out and made shots. (Antonio) Campbell’s a load on the inside, we just didn’t have an answer for that high ball screen.
“I thought some of our miscues in the first half hurt us, the missed free throws, a couple inside shots that we usually make. But credit Ohio, they made plays from inside, outside, and it felt like we were just trying to play catch up all game and they just continued to make plays.”
Ohio (21-10) led by five in the early going, 11-6, before a wing triple from freshman Levi Bradley (Milwaukee, Wis./Pius XI) trimmed the Bobcat lead to just a pair. After a three from the Bobcats pushed the lead back to five, Wilson scored seven-straight, capped by a layup off a great bounce pass from junior Michael Orris (Crete, Ill./Crete-Monee/Kansas State), as the Huskies moved in front, 16-14, with 13:27 to play in the opening half.
Less than a minute after Wilson’s final basket of the run, the Huskie freshman picked up his second foul and sat for the remainder of the half.
The Bobcats answered with three consecutive threes to take a 23-16 lead, but the Huskies responded with the next six on buckets from sophomore Marin Maric (Split, Croatia/La Lumiere School), Bradley and freshman Jaylen Key (Milwaukee, Wis./Homestead) as NIU cut the Ohio advantage to just one, 23-22, just past the midway point of the opening half.
Bradley finished with 10 points. Maric, playing his first game back after missing two due to injury, scored seven points and grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.
Back-to-back triples from Ohio extended the Bobcat lead to seven, 29-22, with 6:03 left before the intermission
An old-fashioned three-point play from senior Chuks Iroegbu (Sacramento, Calif./Franklin/City College of San Francisco) pulled the Huskies within four, 31-27, but Ohio scored the last five points of the half to take a 36-27 lead into the break.
The Bobcats scored seven of the first eight to open the second half, extending its lead to 43-28 in the opening two minutes of the half.
After a triple from Wilson, Ohio used a 14-2 run to push the lead to 52-33 with 15:46 left.
NIU (21-12) trimmed the Ohio lead back to 13 with less than eight minutes to play, but that was as close as it would get as the Bobcats shot 59.3 percent (16-of-27) from the field in the second half to prevent any hopes of a Huskie comeback.
Antonio Campbell, the MAC Player of the Year, led Ohio with 21 points; Kenny Kaminski added 17, Jaaron Simmons scored 16 points with 11 assists while Jordan Dartis chipped in 11 points and Treg Setty added another 10.
NIU will await word on its postseason fate later in the weekend