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NIU opens MAC play with a win at Miami, 72-61

Last place in our power rankings — and deservedly so entering the game — NIU opens conference play with a victory for the first time since 2010.

USA TODAY Sports

Hmm. Maybe the Huskies just have Miami's number in terms of hoops? As previously alluded, one of NIU's few wins last year was against Miami, but that was at home, so to go on the road and beat this MAC East team in Millett Hall is again stunning and impressive.

One of the tricks in NIU's book is they can make free throws, and in the second half they were able to put away the game by sinking 80 percent of them. They also shot a stupidly good 63 percent from the floor in the second half. They weren't letting go of this one.


Final - 1.9.2013 1 2 Total
Northern Illinois Huskies (3-10, 1-0) 28 44 72
Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (5-8, 0-1) 28 33 61

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A lone black spot was NIU's Kevin Gray being ejected in the second half for leaving the bench to assist in a little tussle between his twin brother Keith Gray and Miami's Drew McGhee, both of whom received technicals. A few minutes later Daveon Balls was given a T, and that must've cooled the jets since nobody else got whistled after that.

Do I think NIU is a better team than Miami? I wouldn't go that far because give both of these teams four more games against common opponents and you'll probably see Miami pull ahead of the Huskies in the standings. But this game might turn out, down the road, to be a mean ol' tiebreaker that bumps John Cooper's men into a tougher first round game.

Top players:
Aksel Bolin, NIU: 11 points (3-6, 2-3 3PT, 3-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal
Darrell Bowie, NIU: 10 points (3-4, 4-5 FT), 5 points, 2 steals, 1 block, 2 TO

Will Felder, Miami: 15 points (5-9, 2-4 3PT, 3-4 FT), 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, 3 TO
Will Sullivan, Miami: 8 points (3-3, 2-2 3PT, 0-2 FT), 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 TO