Northern Illinois led by three early in the second half, but a 12-0 Central Michigan run helped the Chippewas claim a 69-50 victory over the Huskies on Saturday night at the NIU Convocation Center.
Freshman guard Mike Davis (Garfield Heights, Ohio/Garfield Heights) scored a career-best 12 points to lead NIU.
Freshman wing Darrell Bowie (Milwaukee, Wis./La Jolla Prep) scored 11 points and grabbed a game-high six rebounds, junior forward Aksel Bolin (Asker, Norway/Akser) added 11 points. Freshman guard Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) dished out a career-best six assists with just two turnovers.
NIU outscored Central Michigan 36-18 in the paint but the Chippewas made eight 3-pointers to just one for the Huskies and CMU also made 21 free throws while the Huskies made just five.
“I thought we came out with a lot of energy and great effort,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “It was 9-2 and you can’t get off to a better start than that. Unfortunately, then it seemed to become a foul game, every time down there was a foul, we lost our rhythm and Central (Michigan) found their rhythm.
“I thought we regrouped at halftime, took a three-point lead, and from there it just went the other way. You have to be able to make outside shots, especially against a team that is playing a 2-3 zone.”
Northern Illinois raced to a 9-2 lead in the early going. Bowie had a bucket and a free throw while Bolin had four quick points as the Huskies took a seven-point lead in the first four minutes of the contest.
A 7-2 burst by Central Michigan cut the NIU lead to just a pair, 11-9, until a basket by Bowie extended the advantage back to four with 13:28 to play in the half.
The Chippewas pulled back even, 18-18, on a triple with just over eight minutes left before the intermission. The 3-pointer ignited a 9-2 run for Central Michigan, giving the Chippewas a 24-20 lead and forcing an NIU timeout.
Out of the timeout, Bolin buried a trifecta to bring NIU back within one, 24-23, but Central Michigan pushed its lead to three, 28-25, heading into the intermission.
Bowie led all scorers with nine points in the opening 20 minutes; Chris Fowler led the Chippewas with eight. Northern Illinois held a 20-11 rebounding edge in the first half but CMU made five triples and went 7-of-9 from the charity stripe to take a three-point lead into the half.
The Huskies jumped out to a three-point lead early in the second half. NIU used an 8-2 burst to begin the half to take a 33-30 lead with 16:23 remaining.
Central Michigan answered with a 12-0 run to take a 42-33 lead until a layup by sophomore forward Kevin Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) stopped the run and cut the Chippewa lead back to seven with 11:18 left.
The lead ballooned to 13 for the Chippewas until five straight points from Davis pulled the Huskies back within eight, but that was as close as it would get as Central Michigan scored the night’s final 11 points.
Fowler led all scorers with 16, he also added a game-high eight assists.
NIU will finish the regular season with a pair of road games, beginning on Tuesday, March 5, at Toledo. Game time against the Rockets is slated for 6 p.m. CT.