It wasn’t the prettiest game of basketball ever played, but the Miami RedHawks came away with their first MAC win of the season as it outlasted the Northern Illinois Huskies 69-67. The RedHawks (8-6, 1-0 MAC) had some success from long distance as they recorded 11 three-pointers on the night while the 31 points from the bench of the Huskies (8-6, 0-1 MAC) gave them opportunities to come away with the win late.
Miami was able to jump out to a 10-4 lead with Marcus Weathers capping off the run with a trey off of a dish by brother Michael. Northern Illinois managed to cut the deficit to 12-8 with 12:26 left in the half thanks to a Marin Maric jumper, and got within one after a pair of Dontel Highsmith free throws about five minutes later. However, the ‘Hawks took flight as they closed the half on a 13-6 to go into the intermission with a 32-24 lead.
Abdoulaye Harouna had a coming out party in the first half with a game-high 12 points, nine of which coming from long range as the team shot an efficient 45.5% from the field while NIU shot 35% (0% from downtown). Adding to the Huskies woes on the offensive end were the 12 turnovers forced by the ‘Hawks in the half, as well as four steals and three blocks, and the lack of production from the key cogs as Maric and Aaric Armstead only accounted for eight points in the first 20 minutes.
Northern Illinois came storming back in the second half and eventually took the lead for the first time in the game as a Marshawn Wilson layup set the score at 49-48 with 12:11 left in regulation. The teams traded blows until a triple from Rod Mills Jr. and a Logan McClane layup gave the Red and White a 66-61 lead with 2:15 to go. The closing seconds got pretty hectic as a pair of Eugene German free throws got the Huskies within one and a miss from the charity stripe from Marcus Weathers gave NIU some life. The road team wasn’t able to convert as Miami escaped with the win despite shooting 10-24 from the line.
For NIU, the loss has to sting as it dominated Miami on the boards (41-28), in bench points (31-9), and at the free throw line. The three-ball proved to be pivotal for the Red and White as they had nearly triple the makes that the road team had, as well as their ability to move the ball around with 10 more assists the Northern Illinois. Going forward for these two squads, the Huskies are going to be a really tough out in the MAC with their brand of solid basketball while the ‘Hawks have the chance to be pretty good at the end of the season, especially if the upperclassmen continue to step up.
Miami hits the road this weekend to take on the Toledo Rockets at 4 p.m. Saturday, while Northern Illinois hosts the Central Michigan Chippewas later at 4:30 in a pivotal MAC West match-up.