Senior guard Jeremy Landers tied a career-high with 17 points to push Northern Illinois to a 66-49 Senior Night home win over Eastern Michigan Wednesday night at the NIU Convocation Center. Redshirt freshman guard Antone Christian scored 13 and junior forward Tim Toler added 12 points.
NIU held the Eagles to just 26.9 percent (14-of-52) shooting, marking the fourth-straight game the Huskie defense has held an opponent to 40 percent shooting or lower.
“It was a great way for our seniors to end their career here in the Convocation Center,” said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. “I’m proud of how this team dug in and battled, particularly in the second half, to continue to build upon the lead.”
The Huskies shot 45.5 percent (20-of-44) and did not make a triple for the first time this season. NIU out-rebounded Eastern Michigan, 44-25.
“I am really proud of this team for the way it has found itself in the last two games,” said Patton. “Our ball movement has been good on the offensive end of the floor and we are playing pretty well defensively as well.”
In addition to his 17 points, Landers also added six rebounds, a career-best three blocks, two steals and two assists.
“He laid it on the on the defensive end of the floor,” Patton said of Landers. “I thought he was terrific defensively, I thought he was terrific offensively.”
NIU (9-19, 5-10 MAC) jumped out to an early 8-0 lead in the opening five minutes of the contest, Toler scored six of the eight for the Huskies. Defensively, Northern Illinois held Eastern Michigan to 0-of-8 from the field to begin the game.
After the Eagles responded with five-straight points, the Huskies used a 10-0 run to push the lead to 18-5 with nine minutes remaining in the first half. Landers scored six points during the second NIU run.
Eastern Michigan (8-21, 4-11 MAC) trimmed the lead back to eight, 22-14, but NIU scored the final six points of the half to take a 28-14 lead into the intermission.
Toler led a balanced attack for the Huskies with eight points in the opening 20 minutes, Christian added seven and Landers chipped in six points. Brandon Bowdry led EMU with five points at the break. Northern Illinois shot 44.0 percent (11-of-25) from the field in the opening stanza while holding Eastern Michigan to just 16.0 percent (4-of-25).
The NIU lead reached 15 early in the second stanza before Eastern Michigan cut the Huskie advantage back to 10, 40-30, with 11 minutes to play in the second half.
Neither team made a field goal for the next six minutes as both teams earned numerous trips to the foul line, NIU went 8-of-10 from the free-throw line during the stretch and Eastern Michigan was 4-of-6 at the charity stripe during that time as the Huskies extended their lead to 48-34 with just over five minutes remaining.
Bowdry made a field goal to end the drought and trim the lead back to a dozen, but NIU quickly responded with a 7-0 run. Freshman forward Nate Rucker ignited the run with a layup, Landers followed with an old-fashioned three-point play before senior guard Michael Patton added a jumper to give the Huskies a 55-36 lead with just over four minutes remaining.
NIU made 11 of its 12 free throw attempts in the final four minutes to claim its second-straight win.
Bowdry finished with a team-high 17 points for Eastern Michigan; Antonio Green also scored 15 points for the Eagles.
Northern Illinois will play its final regular season game at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 5, at Ball State.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.