In dramatic fashion, It was a one-sided game in Eastern Michigan's favor, then Northern Illinois would eventually find themselves up by 15, but a close, back-and-forth game was sealed by a go-ahead 3-pointer by Tim Bond to give EMU the 75-71 victory.
"I just wanted to stay confident. My teammates kept telling me to keep shooting the ball. I had some open looks, but I was just looking for James [Thompson] inside," Bond said after the game. "But that was just confidence. I had it in my mind that I was going to let it fly."
The first time these two teams met in DeKalb, it was Travon Baker that was giving the Eagles all kinds of problems. This time, it was their stud freshman. Marshawn Wilson was the best player on the court for the first half. Making his first eight field goal attempts, the freshman hit a fifth 3-pointer to give the Huskies their first lead of the game (40-37) at the 2:04 mark in the first half. At the half, Wilson played all 20 minutes putting up 23 total points, just two shy of his season-high against Buffalo a month ago.
It seemed like he'd be a big part of the second half too, but he only went 1-for-4 from the field in the second half.
"When we put Jodan Price in the game, he changed the game," EMU coach Rob Murphy said, "He was able to lock down one side of the zone pretty much by himself... When he entered the game, we had four straight stops... It won't show up in the box score, but he was unbelievable. They literally could not see on him and Tim Bond's side."
Making 46 percent of his 3-pointers in February, Willie Mangum helped EMU get off to an early lead for most of the first half shooting 4-for-6 behind the arc for 14 points. He wasn't much help for the Eagles where he only play for four minutes without a shot attempt.
Four and a half minutes into the second half, the Huskies would get a 10-point lead when Nazione's pass to Thompson went through his hands and NIU would get a transition dunk by Andrew Zelis (Travon Baker assist). The Huskies kept taking care of business to find themselves at a 15-point advantage before Murphy made some changes at defense to make stops and let the offense take care of itself. Murphy said that locking down on defense for 13 solid minutes is what turned things around for the Eagles. With a quick exchange of missed transition shots on both ends, the Eagles would quickly go on a 10-0 run under the 10-minute mark (60-55, NIU lead) as Tim Bond threw down a 2-handed slam.
Jordan Nobles hit some critical second-chance buckets to help EMU go on a run, including a light put-back ofter Jodan Price missed his fourth 3-pointer to make it a 62-61 ball game. Unfortunately for the Eagles, their excitement would turn to worry as Thompson and Nobles would both pick up their fourth fouls in the next minute. At which point, they plus Nazione would all have four fouls to their name with four minutes to go. He'd foul out in the closing minutes of the game to finish with six points and four rebounds, all offensive. "I thought his size did bother [Wilson] a bit," Murphy said.
At the under-3 minute mark, Toney would help EMU out with a transition lay-up in traffic to put them back up with a 65-64 lead. Maric went for the block, but came down hurting his right ankle and had to be helped off the court by his teammates.
Fouls to free throws and a pair of mid-range baskets by Toney and Armstead on both ends kept the game tied at 66, then 68, then 70.
No shot clock, EMU's possession. Toney dribbles the clock down to around five seconds, dishes it to Tim Bond who, was 0-for-4 so far, makes his one and only 3-point shot of the game to seal it. "That one felt better than all the other ones I shot. I had my follow-through up and watched it go through the net."
Bond would finish with 17 points and six rebounds with four steals, while Thompson picked up his 17th double-double of the year with 16 points, 13 boards. For NIU, Wilson finished with 26 points shooting 75 percent from the floor while Baker and Maric both closed with eight combined points.
Toledo lost on the road to Western Michigan, so the Rockets, Huskies and Eagles are all at 8-9 records in conference play. EMU will travel to Toledo on Friday while NIU closes their regular season out at home to MAC West champions Ball State.