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Men's Basketball: Bobcats roll over Huskies, let up in second half
There was nothing for Northern Illinois sophomore forward Adbel Nader to lose when he hoisted a deep three from the wing with nine minutes to play against Ohio on Wednesday.
He ball faked, stepped back and released the shot over the outstretched fingertips of Ohio junior guard Ricardo Johnson.
It fell, but straight to the floor without hitting the rim or tickling the twine — an example of how little Northern Illinois’ execution went as planned against Ohio, the victor by a margin of 81-63.
Although Nader had an above-average performance of 16 points and seven rebounds, it was not nearly enough to keep Northern Illinois (3-12, 1-2 Mid-American Conference) within striking distance of Ohio (12-5, 3-0.)
The Huskies hung with the Bobcats until the game’s second media timeout, at which time they led by 10-9. But after junior wingman Aksel Bolin cashed in a pair of free throws a minute later, the pendulum of momentum swung Ohio’s way.
It stayed at its highest point for the remainder of the half, as the Bobcats rolled to a 36-6 run heading into the break.
Northern Illinois coach Mark Montgomery said there wasn’t much he could conjure to change the pace of play, but he tried to slow the game down by any means possible.
“If you have to use five timeouts in the first half, use them all, because you might not get (to) in the second half,” he said.
If the Huskies had any chance of heading to halftime within a reasonable length of the lead, it was dashed within the last 90 seconds of play, when redshirt junior forward Jon Smith pounded home a pair of dunks on consecutive dishes from senior guard D.J. Cooper.
The first was a particularly beautiful play, kick-started when redshirt senior guard Walter Offutt stripped freshman forward Sam Mader at the top of the Bobcats’ key and took several paces before dishing the ball across center court to Cooper.
In a single fluid motion, Cooper slid the ball underneath the reaching arm of a Northern Illinois defender and into Smith’s grasp. One powerful post move later and the ball was flushed through the hoop.
The second was a baseline touch play from which Smith elevated from below the basket and rotated for a two-handed drive to the rim.
The Bobcats failed to keep Nader from laying the ball in on the Huskies’ next possession but had 16 first-half sequences when they stopped the Northern Illinois offense, scored and once again kept the ball out of the basket on defense.
“That’s a staggering number,” Ohio coach Jim Christian said of the stop-score-stop total. “We have that type of team. When we play hard, get stops and turn people over and get out on the break, that’s when we play well.”
That statistic was aided by the fact that Ohio converted 17 of its 25 first half shots.
Buckets weren’t as easy to come by for the Bobcats in the second half, as they shot only 36 percent — seven percent worse than their opponents.
The Huskies played with their backs against the wall after the break and were significantly more competitive in the game’s waning minutes.
Northern Illinois outscored Ohio by nine in the second half, aided by 12 of its 17 total offensive rebounds made possible because the Bobcats checked out mentally late in the game, Christian said.
“I think (Northern Illinois) had four offensive rebounds off the free throw line,” he said. “And that’s just effort, just ‘I don’t feel like playing anymore.’ And that’s bothersome to me.”
There was a fundamental difference in effort between the momentous run of the first half and the defensive slouch that marred the latter portion of the second, Christian said, noting that the style won’t fly in future conference games.
“I treat the first minute of the game like the last minute of the game (even) if we’re up 35, and our team does not,” he said.
OHIO (12-5, 3-0 MAC) 81, Northern Illinois (3-12, 1-2 MAC) 63
D.J. Cooper moved to No. 23 in the NCAA all-time assist ranks with eight helpers.
Ohio had 34 bench points, led by junior guard Ricardo Johnson’s nine.
The Bobcats led by as much as 33 points in the game.
The win marks the Bobcats’ fourth-straight home game in which they scored 80 or more points.