Redshirt sophomore guard Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn./Martin Luther King Magnet) scored a season-high 15 points Wednesday night as the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team fell, 67-58, to Ohio University at the NIU Convocation Center.
Leading by one at the intermission, Ohio used a 12-1 run to open a gap early in the second half.
NIU closed the game on a 20-9 run of its own, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the slow second half start. Ohio shot 52.2 percent (12-of-23) in the second half and also converted 13-of-18 (72.2 percent) chances from the free-throw line.
“We probably played our best 20 minutes in the first half,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery.
“We had some guys in foul trouble but other guys stepped up. I thought we had better flow on offense and we were very efficient on offense. I thought we did a good job containing and stopping (D.J.) Cooper and (Ivo) Baltic, and I loved our effort and energy in the first half.”
After Ohio opened the scoring with a triple, NIU answered with the next eight, including three-pointers by sophomore Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Asker) and Christian to take a five-point lead in the opening minutes of the contest.
An old-fashioned three-point play by freshman forward Keith Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) put the Huskies on top by seven, 15-8, but Ohio answered with an 8-0 run, taking a 16-15 lead with 8:51 left in the opening half.
The Bobcats led by as many as four, 26-22, until back-to-back baskets by Christian and freshman guard Marquavese Ford (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw), evened the game with 48 seconds left in the first half.
Ohio split a pair of free throws to take a 27-26 lead into the intermission. Christian led all scorers with 10 points in the first half; Walter Ofutt led Ohio with seven points. NIU shot 38.5 percent (10-of-26) and Ohio shot 38.1 percent (8-of-21) in an evenly played first half that saw each team make four three-pointers.
The Bobcats opened the second half with a 12-1 run, taking a 39-27 lead with just under 15 minutes remaining.
“I thought they were more aggressive offensively and defensively early in the second half,” said Montgomery. “I thought we got some good shots, unfortunately they just didn’t fall.”
The Ohio lead reached as much as 20, 58-38, with just over six minutes to play before NIU finished the game on a 20-9 run.
Christian started the burst with a bucket, followed by a layup by senior Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) and back-to-back trifecta from freshman guard Stian Berg (Baerum, Norway/Norges Toppidretts Gymnas) and Christian.
Storm added four more points and freshman wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) also added four, but the Huskies ran out of time in their comeback attempt.
Nader finished with 12 points and Storm added eight points and a season high-tying five rebounds.
Offutt led Ohio with 19 points, Reggie Keely added 13 and Nick Kellogg chipped in 12 for the Bobcats.
Northern Illinois will return to the road Saturday, Feb. 4, when the Huskies travel to Bowling Green to visit the Falcons. Game time is 5 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.