Four Huskies scored in double figures but Northern Illinois was unable to recover from a 20-0 first half run by Ohio, falling 81-63 on Wednesday night.
Sophomore wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) scored a team-high 16 points and grabbed a game-best seven rebounds.
Sophomore forward Keith Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) scored 14 points while freshman wing Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) added 10 points and freshman guard J.J. Cravatta (Streator, Ill./Streator Township) also had a career-high 10 points.
“Ohio came out firing on all cylinders tonight,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery.
“Credit those guys, we tried to keep them out of the paint and they made seven threes in the first half. They are probably the best spurt team in the conference and they proved that tonight. D.J. Cooper is one of the best point guards in the conference, he finds those guys and they deliver. They are a good team and they are tough to beat.”
Ohio (12-5, 3-0 MAC) scored the first four points of the contest before the Huskies answered with the next six to take their first lead of the night. Nader got the Huskies started with a layup, Keith Gray added a layup and freshman guard Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) stole the ensuing inbounds and scored to give NIU a two-point lead.
A pair of free throws put Northern Illinois (3-12, 1-2 MAC) up by three, 12-9, with 11:36 to play in the first half before Ohio answered with a game-changing 20-0 run to take a 29-12 lead with 5:49 to play before the intermission.
The Bobcats took a 45-18 lead into the half, Walter Offutt lead all scorers with 12 points at the break for Ohio. Keith Gray led NIU with six points in the opening 20 minutes. Ohio shot 68 percent (17-of-25) in the first half, including 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from behind the 3-point arc, while holding Northern Illinois to just 27.6 percent (8-of-29) shooting.
The Huskies came out in the second half and outscored Ohio, 45-36, NIU’s highest-scoring half of the season.
Cravatta scored all of his career-best 10 points after the intermission. Nader also had 12 of his 16 points after the break.
Northern Illinois shot 42.9 percent (12-of-28) after the break while holding Ohio to just 35.7 percent (10-of-28) shooting in the second half. The Huskies earned 27 trips to the charity stripe in the second 20 minutes, converting on 19 of those chances (70.4 percent).
Offutt finished with a game-high 19 points for the Bobcats. Reggie Keely added 12 and Preseason MAC Player of the Year D.J. Cooper finished with nine points and eight assists.
NIU returns home on Saturday, Jan. 19, when the Huskies host Western Michigan in their first game against a MAC West foe this season. Tip between the Huskies and Broncos is scheduled for 7 p.m.