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Poor free-throw shooting costs Ohio in loss to Northern Illinois

Bobcats go just 11 of 25 at foul line

ATHENS – Ohio made just 11 of 25 free throws and dropped its Mid-American Conference opener to Northern Illinois 72-66 on Saturday at The Convo.

Ben Vander Plas connected on a 3-pointer with 8 seconds left but he missed on a free throw chance for a go-ahead four-point play, and Northern Illinois prevailed in overtime.

Teyvion Kirk’s putback of his own miss tied the game at 66 with 1:28 left in the extra period before Lacey James made two free throws to put the Huskies up for good. Northern Illinois (8-6, 1-0 MAC) made four more free throws after that and finished 13 of 17 at the line, snapping an 11-game MAC road losing streak.

Kirk led the Bobcats (8-5, 0-1 MAC) with 22 points and nine rebounds but also had seven turnovers. Antonio Cowart Jr. had 14 points. Jason Carter, riddled with four trouble, had 9 points and seven rebounds.

James paced the Huskies with 20 points and 14 rebounds, followed by Eugene German with 16 points. Dante Thorpe had 12 points, and Levi Bradley finished with 11 points.

"It's a disappointing loss from the standpoint that we had so many opportunities," Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. "The red-letter things that pop out to me are 11-of-25 from the free throw line, and not even the number of turnovers that we had, but the type of turnovers we had at times. NIU is the first team that's really gone toe-to-toe with us on the glass and Lacey James was a real problem for us tonight, and while Levi Bradley didn't have his gaudy numbers, getting Carter into foul trouble was a real issue tonight as well."

Ohio began the game with a 15-2 run and opened up its biggest lead of 24-10 on a Cowart 3-pointer with 6:55 left in the first half. Northern Illinois cut its deficit to 26-21 but Ohio finished strong to take a 34-21 halftime lead.

The Bobcats matched their biggest lead of 14 early in the second half but went cold for a long stretch, allowing the Huskies to go on a 15-0 run that put them up 38-37 with 12:40 remaining.

A James layup with 58 seconds left gave the Huskies a 58-54 lead, but Gavin Block followed with a three-point play to make it a one-point game. Vander Plas’ 3-pointer tied the game after a Dante Thorpe jumper for Northern Illinois.

Ohio plays Bowling Green at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Stroh Center.

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