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Northern Illinois' hot-shooting start carries it past Ohio

Bobcats bounced in first round of MAC tourney to finish 14-17 again

DeKALB, Ill. Northern Illinois shot 62.1 percent in the first half including 8 of 10 from 3-point range to build a 16-point lead and then coast to a 80-61 victory against Ohio in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Monday night at The Convocation Center.

The No. 7 seed Huskies (16-16) led 44-28 at halftime and advanced to Cleveland to face No. 2 seed Toledo in the quarterfinals.

Eugene German led Northern Illinois with 23 points and five rebounds, Dante Thorpe added 18 points, and Lacey James had 14 points and five rebounds.

"The game plan was to rely on getting Eugene German to pass and drive and have bodies in behind him," Ohio coach Saul Phillips said. "I didn't think we did a good enough job of making him do that at times. We have a few where our feet were in good position, but we just didn't get a hand on them. That hadn't happened to us in a long time. We took a pretty heavy punch and it certainly changed the course of the ball game."

Doug Taylor had another strong game to finish his career by leading Ohio (14-17) with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Jason Carter and Teyvion Kirk added 14 points each.

Northern Illinois got a 3-pointer from Rod Henry-Hayes to start the game and led the rest of the way. Ohio got to within 12-11 on a Preston basket at the 12:33 mark, but German and Austin Richie hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a seven-point game.

It was still a seven-point game with five minutes left in the first half when the Huskies went on a 9-0 run that began with a Thorpe layup and finished with a Thorpe 3-pointer that made it 40-24.

"They came out and punched us in the mouth pretty fast and unexpectedly," Taylor said. "We didn't really know how to react to that at first. We should have made a couple more adjustments on their threes. Eugene German was 4-of-4 in the first half, and we really should have adjusted better on that. But really they just came out with more intensity and more effort than we did."

Taylor had a layup to start the second half to cut Ohio to within 14, but Northern Illinois followed with a 7-0 run to go up 51-30. Ohio made its best run of the night by scoring seven straight two baskets by Kirk and a three-point play by Taylor making it 51-37. The Huskies came back with eight straight points for a 22-point lead with 12:20 to go.

From there, the Bobcats got as close as 68-56 on a Carter 3-pointer with 3:49 remaining. James and German had layups for the Huskies on their next two possessions, though, to put the game away.

Northern Illinois shot 56.1 percent in the game, compared to just 38.9 percent for Ohio. The Huskies were 9 of 16 on 3-pointers, while the Bobcats struggled as they have most of the season shooting outside the paint, going 2 of 18 from long range.

Offensive rebounding kept Ohio from getting beaten even worse. It had a 37-29 rebounding edge, including 11-3 on the offensive end.

Ohio went exactly 14-17 for the second season in a row while losing in the first round of the MAC Tournament for the second straight year. The Bobcats had back-to-back losing records for the first time since the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.

In addition to Taylor, the Bobcats graduate Gavin Block, who did not score in his final career game. Ohio is 81-77 in five seasons under coach Saul Phillips, whose contract is expiring.

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