With its high-powered offense, Toledo seems like the team in the MAC best suited for a shootout.
On Wednesday, Northern Illinois buried that notion.
The Huskies unleashed an offensive assault on the host Rockets, shooting and scoring at a blistering pace in an 84-82 victory that shakes up the MAC regular season seeding race with just three conference games left.
Northern Illinois, once again without junior wing Darrell Bowie due to a shoulder injury, hit 52.3 percent of its field goals, including 9-of-18 from beyond the arc. The impressive effort was capped off by Anthony Johnson's go-ahead three with 10 seconds left after an entertaining, back-and-forth affair.
The Huskies enjoyed a blazing start in the opening half, burying 55.2 percent of their shots from the field and 4-of-8 three-pointers. While Toledo had the game's first bucket, Northern Illinois led by as many as 11 points with four minutes left in the first frame before settling into a 41-34 advantage at the break.
The entire visiting roster seemed to find its stroke in the early going, with nine Huskies seeing minutes and all nine scoring at least two points. Guard Travon Baker led the charge with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from beyond the arc.
J.D. Weatherspoon paced the Rockets in the first half with 10 points, including a double-clutch reverse jam that briefly seemed to energize the Savage Arena crowd. The 34-point output was not far off from the Rockets' usual production rate, but their failure to contain the Huskies' offense left them in a halftime hole.
The Rockets started the second half off in better form, kicking it off with a 5-0 run to pull within two in the first minute. After some back-and-forth, consecutive Jonathan Williams threes tied the game at 52 with 14 minutes to play. Toledo then went ahead 59-57 on a pair of Julius Brown free throws at the 12:13 mark of the second to earn its first lead in almost 20 minutes of game time.
From there, Toledo's lead grew to as many as five, but, thanks in part to 3-of-3 three-point shooting from NIU reserve guard Aaron Armstead, the Huskies got back into trading the lead with the Rockets as the game clock began to wane. With both teams essentially refusing to miss, the hosts took a timeout down 78-75 with 3:22 to play. That timeout came at the right moment, as the Rockets made a couple key stops and went on a 4-0 run over the next two minutes, punctuated by a Justin Drummond jumper to take a 79-78 lead approaching the game's final minute.
After Toledo grabbed a three-point advantage with 60 ticks left, Baker nailed a corner three to pull the Huskies even at 81-all at the 52:4 mark.
Drummond restored Toledo's lead with a made free throw at 48 seconds, but NIU's hot outside shooting continued when Johnson buried a triple, giving the Huskies their two-point lead with 10 seconds left. Julius Brown could not get a buzzer-beating three pointer to fall, sealing the 84-82 victory for NIU.
Despite his late-game heroics, Johnson's nine points were only good for fifth on his own team. Baker paced the Huskies with 18 points on 5-of-8 three-point shooting, followed by 15 from Armstead. Jordan Threloff also chipped in 10 rebounds on the evening.
Toledo saw all five starters score in double figures, with Brown's 20 as well as 17 apiece from Weatherspoon and Drummond leading the way.
The game served as a make-up from a postponed Tuesday contest. The game had to be moved by a day due to a water main break at Savage Arena.
The loss kept Toledo (18-10, 10-5 MAC) out of a tie for first in the conference. The Rockets sit in a three-way tie for second with Bowling Green and Kent State, a game behind Central Michigan. For Northern Illinois (11-15, 5-10 MAC), the result snapped a three-game losing streak and should serve as a signature win as the Huskies prepare for a first-round matchup in the conference tournament.
Toledo will stay at home to host last-place Ball State Saturday, while the Huskies return west to take on league-leading Central Michigan Saturday.
|Points||Baker (18)||Brown (20)|
|Rebounds||Threloff (10)||Weatherspoon (7)|
|Assists||Baker (7)||Brown (7)|
|Blocks||Threloff (1)||Nathan Boothe (3)|
|Steals||Marin Maric (2)||Three players (1)|