The Miami RedHawks (9-11, 5-4 MAC) traveled to DeKalb to take on the Northern Illinois Huskies (10-11, 4-5) Tuesday night and, despite holding a nine-point lead well into the second half, lost for just the second time in six games, 53-41.
The Huskies got off to a very slow start, not getting on the scoreboard until a J.J. Cravatta 3-pointer over four minutes into the half to make the score 4-3 in favor of Miami. That first basket did nothing to help NIU open any scoring floodgates, however; after a layup from Pete Rakocevic at the 14:49 mark the next Husky field goal came at 9:53 of the half. By then the RedHawks had built a 15-8 lead behind five points from Willie Moore.
That 10-point lead shrunk rather quickly after a scoring surge led by senior Aksel Bolin that put Northern Illinois within one, 19-18, with just over five minutes left. The Huskies, the top rebounding team in the conference, displayed their dominance on the glass by outrebounding Miami six-to-one in that time it took to pull within one. The RedHawks were able to hang on to that lead and walked off the court with a 27-26 advantage at halftime. A halftime deficit is nothing new for the Huskies, who have now trailed after the first 20 minutes for five consecutive games.
Moore had the best first half out of anyone, leading all players with nine points and six rebounds coming off the bench. Offensively each team had its struggles; Miami failed to make a shot from behind the arc in five attempts and Northern Illinois made just two of seven free throw shots.
Miami’s Joshua Oswald took the reins to start the second half, scoring the first seven points for his team and extending the RedHawk lead to 34-28 at the 16:25 mark. That advantage grew to nine as the Huskies yet again struggled to find their shooting stroke to begin a half, going nearly five-and-a-half minutes between points.
Up by nine against a team that came out of the locker room sputtering offensively seemed like a recipe for success for Miami. Unfortunately for John Cooper and his squad, the RedHawks never found that extra gear to pull away for good, and it cost them dearly.
Aaron Armstead knocked down back-to-back threes and added a layup to bring NIU within one. Another 3-pointer, this one from Travon Baker, gave Northern Illinois its first lead of the night with 12:00 to go. A 9-2 scoring run by the Huskies completely turned the tables on Miami, giving the home team a nine-point lead of its own, 48-39. Miami never came close to mounting any sort of comeback and at the end of the night found itself on the losing end of a 53-41 decision.
To say the Huskies dominated the end of the game would be an understatement. Starting with Armstead’s aforementioned threes, Northern Illinois ended the night on a 25-4 run where it bested Miami in every aspect of the game, forcing seven turnovers and grabbing five offensive rebounds during that stretch.
Four players reached double figures in scoring on the night: Miami’s Oswald and Northern Illinois’ Bolin, Baker, and Armstead all recorded 10 points each. Jordan Threloff grabbed 10 rebounds, his second career game with double-digit boards.
This would have been a big game for Miami to win considering its next two games come against Ohio and Buffalo, two teams that are ahead of Miami in the conference standings. Northern Illinois, now owners of a three-game winning streak, can really gain some ground in the MAC’s West division. The Huskies play host to Western Michigan this Sunday and then welcome in the lowly Chippewas of Central Michigan.