At the first timeout, the Huskies led 8-7. Marin Maric had all 8 of their points.
Up 14-12, Maric had 12 of the points and gave the international “feed me” sign. Jaylen Key then hit a jumper for the Huskies, and they were up 16-12 with 11:12 to play. Northern Illinois got there mainly by being more aggressive on the glass, out rebounding the Eagles, 9-3.
Northern Illinois went on a 9-1 run to take the lead 21-13, before a Ray Lee stopped the bleeding for the Eagles.
With the Huskies struggling at the line, the Eagles were able to battle back and tied the score at 23 with a three by Jordan Nobles.
Austin Pauga and Ray Lee then traded threes, and they were tied up with 3:37 to go.
Jordan Nobles picked up his third foul and Maric knocked down both free throws.
After a Northern Illinois turnover, Willie Mangum IV was able to hit James Thompson IV on an alley-oop.
Down by 1, Eastern Michigan then made a furious rally to close out the first half and led 33-29. Mangum made a steal and drained a three as time expired.
Maric led the Huskies with 15 points and 8 rebounds.
James Thompson had 11 points and 6 rebounds for the Eagles, and added 9.
The Huskies had 10 turnovers, while the Eagles had 7.
Levi Bradley made up for the turnover to end the first half by scoring the first 4 points, tying the game up.
The Eagles responded by going on a 6-1 run, and Northern Illinois called a timeout.
There was a flurry of scoring after that, with Eastern Michigan retaining the lead, 46-41 at the 15:21 timeout.
Tim Bond came out of a scrum for a loose ball and went the length of the floor and drove between three people and had a nice dunk. He didn’t hang on the rim long enough and ended up on his tailbone. He would be ok.
With 11:58 to go, the Eagles were up 54-48. They made little runs, but couldn’t shake the Huskies.
Thompson went up for a dunk, and Levi Bradley made a play on the ball. He was called for the foul, and must have said the magic word to get a technical.
Eastern Michigan only hit 2 of the 4 free throws. Northern Illinois wouldn’t go away. They Eagles were up 60-55 with 7:41.
James Thompson IV then started to assert himself even more, and put the Eagles up 68-60, before freshman Eugene German hit a huge three to keep the Huskies in it.
With the Eagles up 71-66 and 2 minutes to go, the Huskies had the ball and battled, getting several hustle rebounds. They just couldn’t get the ball in the hoop. By that time, the game had gotten a little chippy at points, and Aaric Armstead made a nice hustle play and threw the ball back as he was going out of bounds, and hit Ray Lee square in the face. Through the tears one inevitably gets when being popped in the nose, Lee said, “Nice hustle.” This grumpy old blogger was impressed with the display of sportsmanship.
With 26 seconds left, Maric hit 2 free throws to put the Huskies down 2.
After a couple misses at the line by the Eagles, the Huskies had the ball down by 2 with 20 seconds left.
The Huskies had a chance to tie at the line, and missed both. Thompson got the rebound with 5 second left. Immediately fouled, he hit one free throw, and that was the game.
Eastern Michigan 72, Northern Illinois 69
Thompson ended the game with 21 point and 11 rebounds to lead the Eagles. Ray Lee added 20.
Maric had 24 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Huskies. Levi Bradley added 17.
The Huskies will be kicking themselves all off-season, because they missed 15 free throws in the game.
Eastern Michigan heads to Cleveland to face Akron Thursday at Noon.