DEKALB, Ill. — The Huskies saved their best for last.
Northern Illinois closed the game out with a 24-12 run, over the final 7:30, and closed the door on a season sweep over Ohio with a 71-60 win inside NIU’s Convocation Center on Tuesday night.
And none of the Huskies, now 12-9 and 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference, closed the game better than senior guard Dante Thorpe. Thorpe finished with 20 points, and scored 17 points in the final 11:25.
Eugene German added 15 points, 11 in the second half, for NIU. Levi Bradley had 14 points for the Huskies, which knocked off top 25 opponent Buffalo in its previous home game.
Ohio (11-9, 3-5 MAC) fell to 1-6 on the road this season, and was done in by a sub-par shooting night. The Bobcats, 11 of 25 at the foul line in a 72-66 loss earlier this month to NIU, hit 15 of 22 (68.2 percent) at the stripe in the rematch.
But Ohio had no range from the outside. The Bobcats converted just 5 of 26 from 3-point range (19.2 percent), including an unsightly 2 of 16 (12.5 percent) from the arc in the second half.
Sophomore forward Jason Carter had 15 points to lead Ohio, but managed just one shot attempt in the final 10:23 — a 3-point miss with 24 seconds left.
Sophomore guard Teyvion Kirk added 10 points. Both Carter and Kirk had six rebounds apiece.
The game was tight throughout, with 14 ties and six lead changes, until the final minutes. Ohio took it’s final lead at 50-49 with seven minutes left on Doug Taylor’s layup, but Thorpe hit from the top of the key to give NIU a 52-50 lead just seconds later.
Thorpe hit again, this time from the right wing to make it 57-51, and his 3-pointer from the left corner with 3:41 left pushed the Huskies out to a 62-54 lead.
Ohio got no closer than eight the rest of the way as NIU hit 9 of 10 free throws in the final 2:07 to wrap it up.
Nothing was settled in the first 20 minutes as the teams settled for a 31-31 tie.
Carter led all scorers with nine points and added four rebounds. He scored Ohio’s first six points and had eight in the first 7:20.
Bradley had eight in the first half for NIU, which saw nine different players record at least two points in the first half.
The Bobcats contained German in the first half — just four points on 2 of 6 shooting — and took Lacey James (0 points) of the equation. James had 20 points and 14 rebounds in the first meeting this season.
NIU scored the game’s first six points and didn’t trail at all until the closing minutes of the half. The Huskies led by seven at one point, at 21-14, but Ohio used a 7-0 run capped by a Doug Taylor dunk to tie it at 21-21 all.
Ohio took its only lead of the half on Connor Murrell’s 3-pointer with 1:16 left in the half to go up 31-29. Bradley tied it with a nifty drive with 28.4 seconds left.
With Ohio trailing 54-51, freshman guard Jason Preston got himself free for a pair of 8-foot floaters near the rim to the left side of the lane. Neither went in.
On the ensuing possession, German penetrated into the lane and fired a pass to Thorpe on the right side. Thorpe hit the shot, and a potential one-point game was out to a six-point margin.
After a time out with 5:17 left, Preston missed a 3-pointer from the right side. German got the rebound and led a one-man break the other way for a bucket and an eight-point lead — then the largest of the game for either side.
Four possessions, two huge swings, and the Bobcats never had a shot after that.
Carter was aggressive early, and got involved offensively in a big way well before halftime. He had 15 shots, six more than anyone else on the roster.
Ohio’s defense was pretty good for most of the night. The Bobcats limited NIU’s work on the offensive glass, and kept German under wraps. German got five of his 15 points late on free throws when Ohio was trying to extend the game.
Kirk, with two late turnovers sullying the stat line, was under control and looked to distribute more. He took just nine shots, one a desperation 3 very late in the game, and finished with six rebounds, two assists and four turnovers.
In general, Ohio played offensively the way it wanted to. It kept the transition game largely off the board for NIU, and had just 13 turnovers. The Bobcats got the kind of shots they wanted — in the paint, off the pass, or open from the outside — and won the majority of the possession before the shot.
The shooting was terrible. Despite a plethora of open looks from the arc, Ohio made just five the whole game on 26 attempts. A few of those came in a made rush with less than three minutes to go, but for the vast majority of the game the Bobcats simply missed the kind of 3-pointers that head coach Saul Phillips would gladly have available.
Senior wing Gavin Block, coming off the best three games of his season, had a bad night. He was just 2 of 6 from the arc, and most were open looks, and finished with eight points, four turnovers and one technical foul.
The Bobcats will host Akron (12-8, 4-3 MAC) in Athens on Saturday in an anticipated 3:30 p.m. start.
The Zips did not play on Tuesday and will have a full seven days prep for the game.
The game will be the second of a women’s-men’s doubleheader in the Convo, and will be a part of the biggest day of the season in the Roundhouse on Richland. Ohio will be celebrating the Convo’s 50th anniversary in style with special promotions, throw-back uniforms, special halftime entertainment and more.
Around the MAC
There were only four conference games on Tuesday. Kent State at Western Michigan, because of the dangerous cold in the region, was postponed until Thursday night. Akron and Bowling Green (14-6, 6-1 MAC) had a scheduled off day on Tuesday.
In Tuesday’s other games: Buffalo won its 21st straight home game and took sole possession of first in the overall conference standings with an 83-59 drubbing of visiting Ball State. Nate Navigato scored the final five points as Toledo rallied for a road win at Miami (66-63). Central Michigan hung a loss on preseason MAC West favorite Eastern Michigan, 86-82, in Mount Pleasant.
“You’ve just got to step up and knock down a few of those looks as a Division I basketball player.” — Ohio head coach Saul Phillips on his team’s 3-point shooting.
Northern Illinois 71, Ohio 60
OHIO 60 (11-9, 3-5 MAC)
Jason Carter 6 3-4 15, Teyvion Kirk 3 4-6 10, Gavin Block 2 3-4 8, Antonio Cowart Jr. 2 0-0 6, Doug Taylor 3 1-2 7, Jason Preston 2 0-0 5, Ben Vander Plas 1 3-4 5, Connor Murrell 1 1-2 4; TOTALS 20 15-22 60; 3-point goals — 5-26 (Cowart 2-6, Preston 1-3, Murrell 1-3, Block 1-6, Kirk 0-2, Carter 0-3, Vander Plas 0-3).
NORTHERN ILLINOIS 71 (12-9, 5-3 MAC)
Dante Thorpe 5 6-6 20, Lacey James 1 0-0 2, Eugene German 5 5-6 15, Rod Henry-Hayes 1 0-0 2, Levi Bradley 6 2-2 14, Trendon Hankerson 1 0-0 3, Gairges Daow 1 0-0 2, Noah McCarty 0 4-6 4, Jaylen Key 2 2-2 6, Austin Richie 1 0-0 3; TOTALS 23 19-22 71; 3-point goals — 6-15 (Thorpe 4-4, Richie 1-1, Hankerson 1-2, James 0-1, McCarty 0-1, Bradley 0-1, Henry-Hayes 0-2, German 0-3).
TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Field goal — Ohio 20-56 (.357), 3-point goals 5-26 (.192); Northern Illinois 23-53 (.434), 3-point goals 6-15 (.400); Free throws — Ohio 15-22 (.682), NIU 19-22 (.864); Rebounds — Ohio 36/10 offensive (Four players with 6 each); NIU 36/5 offensive (James 7); Assists — Ohio 9 (Preston 3), NIU 15 (German 6); Steals — Ohio 4, NIU 3; Blocks — Ohio 0, NIU 3 (Hankerson 2); Turnovers — Ohio 13, NIU 11; Personal fouls — Ohio 16, NIU 16; Attendance — 737; Technical fouls — Ohio 1 (Gavin Block, 15:42, 2H), NIU 1 (Noah McCarty, 15:42, 2H).