The Toledo Rockets came into Friday night's nationally-televised game at Northern Illinois leading the MAC in scoring offense. They came out of Friday night's game with their lowest point total of the season, thanks to the Huskies' stellar defensive effort.
A combination of poor shooting and turnovers did the Rockets in, but a lot of that was because of what Northern Illinois was doing on the defensive end. Nathan Boothe still got his - 15 points and 10 boards - but didn't take over the game like he normally does. NIU did very well to limit Toledo's second leading scorer Jonathan Williams, who had just a miserable night going 1-12 from the floor and 0-7 from beyond the arc.
The Huskies' ability to limit the 3-pointer was another factor in determining the outcome. Toledo finished just 5-30 (17 percent) from beyond the arc, with Boothe hitting just one of four attempts. NIU wasn't a whole lot better, going 8-24 (33 percent), but because they didn't take as many threes they got better looks at the basket.
Offensively, both teams struggled. At the first media timeout the Rockets and Huskies were a combined 3-14 for just 8 points between them. NIU really struggled shooting early, as with half of the first stanza gone the MAC West leaders had only hit 3 of 16 attempts.
It looked like everything was going to go wrong on NIU's big night in the first half. The Huskies went five minutes without a basket and looked lost trying to get an open shot. To make matters worse, Marin Maric picked up two quick fouls and had to sit for awhile. The Huskies struggled to get the ball inside and when they did, they couldn't convert. Travon Baker, who finished with a game-high 21 points, had to do it all. Baker scored 12 of those points in the first half with Maric in foul trouble, helping cut a 21-12 Toledo lead down to just two at 23-21.
After eventually getting the lead and holding it at halftime, NIU made a big run. A 9-2 second half spurt put the Huskies up 38-29, their largest lead of the contest. Toledo wasn't going to die that easily, though, as the Rockets answered with a 7-0 run of their own to cut NIU's lead to two.
While the old NIU may have gone into a shell and let Toledo continue their run, new, tough NIU did what they have done best this year: respond. An 11-2 run propelled the Huskies out to a 49-38 lead, with the exclamation points coming from back-to-back threes from Baker.
To Toledo's credit they didn't fold. A Boothe three with 1:35 on the clock cut the NIU lead to just five at 51-46. But, NIU responded again, closing out the game behind pairs of Baker and Aaric Armstead free throws.
Baker really won the game for the Huskies. His play during that first half nightmare kept NIU in the game and his ability to hit the 3-pointer was paramount in the Huskies' being able to stay undefeated at home. It says a lot about a point guard when he leads the team in points and rebounds. Levi Bradley had a great game filling in for Maric off of the bench, scoring 12 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Armstead was close to a double-double putting up a 12 & 8 stat line.
The stat sheet was bleak for Toledo, as only Boothe had a resemblance of a good game. Stuckey Mosely was solid scoring 9 and collecting 8 rebounds, while Nick Rogers had 8 off of the bench. Williams' inability to make shots really hurt Toledo and their chances to get back into the game, and outside of maybe Zach Garber (5 & 6) no one else really stepped up in Williams' offensive absence.
Northern Illinois looks to continue their run in a huge game Tuesday night at Akron. Toledo will try to regroup over the weekend to be prepared for another tough contest when Ohio comes to visit Savage Arena. Both games will tip off at 7 Eastern.
|Points||T. Baker (21)||N. Boothe (15)|
|Rebounds||T. Baker (9)||N. Boothe (10)|
|Assists||Two tied (2)||Two tied (2)|
|Blocks||M. Maric (3)||Two tied (2)|
|Steals||Four tied (2)||Three tied (1)|