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Ohio Bobcats vs. Northern Illinois Huskies men's basketball final: Maric and Baker big for Huskies in 80-69 win

NIU shows that it isn't joking around with conference-opening win over Ohio.

Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

For the second consecutive season, Northern Illinois opened the conference season with a win over Ohio, this time around it was 80-69.

It was largely due to the play of two men. Travon Baker and Marin Maric both had double digit figures at the half, and both finished with 20+ points as well. Maric (22 points and 14 rebounds) and Baker (25 points) carried the Huskies in what was a quality offensive performance. In the opening 20 minutes NIU shot 7-11 from beyond the arc and was above a 50 percent clip from the floor. In the latter half, NIU netted 43 despite the fact that Ohio played better defense for much it.  The 10-21 effort beyond the arc for NIU could not have come at a better time.

A big part of this loss was definitely Antonio Campbell's struggles with fouls. He played five minutes in the first half and 13 total while putting in a 5-point effort. As has happened a few times already this season with the Bobcats, Ohio had trouble stopping its opponent from scoring around the bucket and noticeably lacked that inside presence itself without Campbell excelling. Ohio also struggled to keep NIU from getting to the bucket without fouling. The Huskies shot 37 free throws and made 26.

Campbell's absence from the floor hurt on the boards, as NIU won the rebounding battle by a count of 41-27.

The game was pretty much toe-for-toe most of the night with 18 lead changes. Ohio grabbed a 53-52 lead on a Treg Setty 3-pointer with 10:40 left, and that would be the last time the 'Cats led. After a Jaaron Simmons free throw made it 68-63 in a last-ditch effort with less than two minutes remaining, but the Huskies put things away with free throws.

With just 4 turnovers for Ohio in this one, Ohio demonstrated an ability to control the ball against a good Huskie defense. Unfortunately for Ohio the pace was very much so in favor of NIU. Constant whistles on foul calls allowed NIU to keep Ohio from hitting any big runs, and helped Mark Montgomery's team to organize itself defense repeatedly.

Coach Saul Phillips is not likely to be happy with Ohio's defense, but its second half shooting was even more-so disappointing. As a result, Ohio shot 36 percent on the night (close to NIU's 37 percent FG% allowed this season), and 27.3 percent from distance. That 6-22 mark on 3-pointers isn't going to do the job most night, certainly not on the road against a successful opponent. A tally of 8 assists is also indicative of an undesirable pace for Ohio, that number could have been expected to be higher on a night without so many stoppages of play.

Aaric Armstead started things in a hot fashion for NIU and ended up with 14 points. Laytwan Porter contributed nicely to the Huskies win with 13 points and 8 rebounds.

Jaaron Simmons led the way for Ohio with 18 points and 4 assists but also had to sit some with foul trouble. Setty and Kenny Kaminski both contributed 15 points each, but Kaminski's came on 15 shots.

Ohio now will have to get back on the winning side of things with a home bout against Ball State.