DEKALB, Ill. – Despite a double-double from senior forward Doug Taylor, the 10th-seeded Ohio men's basketball team (14-17) would be unable to overcome a 16-point halftime deficit, falling to No. 7 Northern Illinois (16-16), 80-61, inside the NIU Convocation Center on Monday evening (March 11) in the opening round of the 2019 Mid-American Conference Tournament.
"The game plan was to rely on getting Eugene German to pass and drive and have bodies in behind him," fifth-year head coach Saul Phillips said. "I didn't think we did a good enough job of making him do that at times. We have a few where our feet were in good position, but we just didn't get a hand on them. That hadn't happened to us in a long time. We took a pretty heavy punch and it certainly changed the course of the ball game."
In the final game of his Bobcat career, Taylor (Columbus, Ohio) led the Bobcats with 20 points and 11 rebounds while going 7-of-9 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw ling. Sophomore guard Teyvion Kirk (Joliet, Ill.) finished the game with 14 points, going 5-of-8 from the field and 4-of-9 from the free throw line. Redshirt sophomore forward Jason Carter (Johnstown, Ohio) finished with 14 points as well, going 4-of-12 from the field, while also grabbing seven boards, while freshman guard Jason Preston (Orlando, Fla.) finished with six points and four assists.
"They came out and punched us in the mouth pretty fast and unexpectedly," Taylor said. "We didn't really know how to react to that at first. We should have made a couple more adjustments on their threes. Eugene German was 4-of-4 in the first half and we really should have adjusted better on that. But really they just came out with more intensity and more effort than we did."
NIU would win the tip and get on the board first with a three-pointer. NIU would go up 5-0 before Taylor would get Ohio on the board with a layup and two free throws moments later to cut the lead to 5-3. Another layup from Taylor would bring Ohio within two, however, NIU would hit another three to take a 10-5 lead. Ohio and NIU would trade baskets over the next three minutes, with a layup from Preston cutting the Ohio deficit to one with 12:33 left.
Back-to-back threes from NIU would give the Huskies a seven-point lead, however redshirt freshman forward Ben Vander Plas (Ripon, Wis.) would drain a three of his own to bring the score to 18-14 with 11 minutes to go. The Huskies would then go on a 7-2 run before another layup from Preston would cut the Huskies' lead to seven with seven minutes to go in the half. A dunk from Carter would cut the NIU lead to 25-20 with just under seven minutes to go, however, the Huskies would be hurt by three three-pointers from NIU over the next three minutes that would put NIU up 40-24. The Huskies' would take their largest lead of the game with 1:13 left, and 18-point advantage, before two free throws from Kirk would send the Bobcats to the locker room trailing 44-28.
At the half, the Bobcats shot 36 percent from the field, 17 percent from three-point range and 54 percent from the free throw line, while NIU shot 62 percent from the field, 80 percent from three-point range and were 0-for-2 from the free throw line. Ohio out rebounded the Bobcats 18-15, while Ohio dished out four assists and had one steal to NIU's six assists and no steals.
Taylor would get the first points for the Bobcats in the second half with a layup under the basket. After NIU would stretch the lead to 21, a layup from Kirk would spark a 7-0 run for Ohio that would cut the NIU lead to 51-37 with 16:03 left in the game. However, NIU would respond with a 6-0 run to take a 57-37 lead with 13:45 left in the game. After NIU would go up 59-38, a layup from Taylor and free throws from Carter would cut the lead to 59-43. After back-to-back buckets from NIU, Taylor and Carter would come up big again, countering the NIU offense, cutting the NIU lead to 63-47 and forcing NIU to call a timeout.
After NIU would bring their lead back to 18 with 6:09 left, two free throws and a layup from Kirk and a three from Carter would bring Ohio within 12 with 3:49 left in the game. After NIU would go back up 15, two free throws from Taylor would bring the score to 72-59. NIU would hit a handful of free throws to stretch the lead to 18, before a layup from junior guard Antonio Cowart, Jr. would cut the Huskies lead back down to 16. NIU hit their remaining free throws down the stretch, with the Bobcats falling by the final of 80-61.
Overall, Ohio shot 38.9 percent from the field, 11.1 percent from three-point range and 65.4 percent from the free throw line, while NIU shot 56.1 percent from the field, 56.3 percent from three-point range and 58.3 percent from the free throw line. Ohio out rebounded NIU, 37-29, while Ohio dished out 10 assists and had three steals and one block to NIU's 10 assists, four steals and no blocks.
For NIU, Eugene German finished with 23 points and five rebounds, going 4-of-6 from three-point range. Dante Thorpe finished with 18 points, going 6-of-10 from the field, while Lacey James finished with 14 points and five rebounds.