Bobcats drop third in a row

Ohio freshman guard Lunden McDay (15) had 13 points in the Bobcats’ 61-59 road loss at Northern Illinois on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020.

The Bobcats’ tough-luck season took another downward turn on Tuesday night in DeKalb, Ill.

Senior forward Noah McCarty hit two clutch shots in the final 90 seconds to lift Northern Illinois past Ohio, 61-59, inside the NIU Convocation Center.

McCarty, who finished with 16 points, bagged a left-side 3-pointer with 1:14 remaining to push the Huskies out in front 59-57. Ohio sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas tied it, 59-59, with 47.5 seconds left with a pair of free throws.

Then McCarty hit the game-winner, a spinning floating jump shot in the lane with 18.2 seconds left, to drive NIU (12-10, 5-3 Mid-American Conference) to its third straight win.

Ohio had a shot to tie it at the buzzer, but freshman Ben Roderick’s jumper at the foul line was off the mark. The Bobcats (10-11, 2-6 MAC) dropped their third straight game, and have now lost four in a row to NIU dating back to last season.

“It boils down to game-winning plays,” said Ohio head coach Jeff Boals. “Give (McCarty) credit, that’s a game-winning play.”

Ohio has lost six conference games this season by a combined 30 points. Three of the losses — at Buffalo, at home against Akron, and now at NIU — have come by a combined total of just eight points.

“It’s got to hurt,” Boals said. “All those little things add up.

“It comes down to game-winning plays in crunch time.”

Vander Plas led Ohio with 18 points and eight rebounds, and put the Bobcats in position at the end. He scored 14 points in the second half, and netted 11 of OU’s final 13.

Vander Plas carved out three different offensive rebounds for stick-back buckets inside the final 4:10, including one with 2:19 remaining that gave Ohio its last lead at 57-56. The Bobcats trailed by as many as 10 in the second half, and were down 55-48 with 4:30 remaining.

Still, Vander Plas hit just 4 of 11 at the foul line. Ohio, as a team, was only 10 of 18 from the stripe (55.6 percent).

Freshman guard Lunden McDay had 13 points for OU, and sophomore guard Jason Preston added 10 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

Senior guard Jordan Dartis had six points, and hit two 3-pointers to bring his career total up to 289. He now sits one behind the program leader, Nick Kellogg.

But Preston and Dartis combined for just two points and two assists in the second half when the ‘Cats shot just 34.6 percent.

NIU trailed by seven at the half, but shot 56.5 percent and 5 of 8 from 3-point range in the second. It was the first time in seven games that the Huskies won after trailing at halftime.

Senior guard Eugene German scored a team-high 18 points for NIU, and Tyler Cochran was a spark off the bench with 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Ohio led 32-27 at the half, and barely trailed in the first 20 minutes after opening the game with a 9-4 spurt.

The Huskies rattled off four straight to grab its only lead, at 15-14, before Roderick’s 3-point grabbed the lead back for the Bobcats.

NIU tied the game three times in the half, the last 24-24, before an Ohio 5-0 run gave the Bobcats the lead going into the break.

Preston got free for a spinning layup, then hit McDay on the right wing for a 3-pointer to make it 29-24 and OU cruised into the half from there with the five-point cushion.

But NIU opened the second half with an 11-2 run to take a 38-34 lead and immediate put the Bobcats on their heels.

“We didn’t have the energy we had in the first half,” Boals said. “Especially on the defensive end, and that’s where you win games like this.”

The Huskies took a 53-43 lead with eight minutes to go after Nathan Scott’s 3-pointer. It was the largest lead of the night for either side.

Vander Plas, held to four points and one rebound in the first half, and McDay brought Ohio back. The duo combined for all of OU’s final 16 points.

But Ohio needed Roderick to hit an open jumper to keep playing, and it didn’t go through.

“You’ll take that shot for the tie,” Boals said.

Ohio will be on the road again Saturday, with a 1 p.m. start at Ball State (11-9, 4-3 MAC).

Northern Illinois 61, Ohio 59

Ohio 32 27 — 59

Northern Illinois 27 34 — 61

OHIO 59 (10-11, 2-6 MAC)

Jason Preston 5 0-0 10, Ben Vander Plas 7 4-11 18, Sylvester Ogbonda 1 2-2 4, Lunden McDay 4 2-2 13, Jordan Dartis 2 0-0 6, Nate Spring 1 0-0 3, Nolan Foster 0 2-3 2, Miles Brown 0 0-0 0, Mason McMurray 0 0-0 0, Ben Roderick 1 0-0 3; TOTALS 21 10-18 59; 3-point goals — 7-24 (McDay 3-5, Dartis 2-10, Springs 1-3, Roderick 1-3, Preston 0-1, Vander Plas 0-1, Brown 0-1).

NORTHERN ILLINOIS 61 (12-9, 5-3 MAC)

Trendon Hankerson 1 0-0 2, Eugene German 7 2-3 18, Noah McCarty 7 0-0 16, Darius Beane 2 0-2 5, Lacey James 1 0-0 3, Chris Johnson 0 2-2 2, Gairges Daow 0 0-0 0, Tyler Cochran 4 4-6 12, Nathan Scott 1 0-0 3; TOTALS 23 8-13 61; 3-point goals — 7-16 (McCarty 2-2, German 2-5, Scott 1-1, James 1-2, Beane 1-3, Hankerson 0-2).

TEAM STATISTICS/INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

Field goals — Ohio 21-53 (.396), 3-point goals 7-24 (.292); Northern Illinois 23-53 (.434), 3-point goals 7-16 (.438); Free throws — Ohio 10-18 (.556), NIU 8-13 (.615); Rebounds — Ohio 33/10 offensive (Vander Plas 8), NIU 38/11 offensive (Cochran 10); Assists — Ohio 10 (Preston 7), NIU 9 (Hankerson 3); Steals — Ohio 6 (Preston 2), NIU 3; Blocks — Ohio 2, NIU 2; Turnovers — Ohio 9, NIU 9; Personal fouls — Ohio 16, NIU 20; Attendance — n/a; Technical fouls — none.

Email at jarkley@athensmessenger.com; follow on Twitter @JasonAmessenger

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