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Ohio's Treg Setty goes up for a shot after a quick change of possession during the game against Akron at The Convo on Feb. 2. The Bobcats lost 80-68. 

Men's Basketball: Bobcats look to amend foul trouble against struggling Northern Illinois

Ohio looks to defeat Northern Illinois Saturday. 

For its past two games, Ohio has been charged with stopping an incoming team’s win streak.

On Saturday, however, it’ll be up to the Bobcats (13-8, 4-5 Mid-American Conference) to kick a team while it’s already down.

Northern Illinois (16-6, 5-4 Mid-American Conference) will head to The Convo this weekend sporting a three-game losing streak, which follows a 5-1 start the team had in conference play that, at one time, gave them the best mark in the conference.

Despite the difference in attitude for their opponents from the last two contests, however, coach Saul Phillips said the way his team prepares will be the same.

“We’re just trying to stack up wins and count them at the end of the year,” Phillips said. “There’s such a good prize for finishing in the top four of this league. There’s gonna be plenty of stuff happening around us. If you just keep your head down and keep getting wins, that other stuff will position you. But if you don’t have enough wins, it doesn’t make any difference.”

Saturday’s game will be a rematch of the season’s Mid-American Conference opener for both sides, when the Huskies took down the Bobcats 80-69 in Dekalb, Illinois, on Jan. 6. The game stood as one of the low points in conference play for Ohio in several aspects, from 3-point defense to foul trouble.

It was especially tumultuous for junior Antonio Campbell, who mustered a season-low 13 minutes in the game because of foul issues, leaving the Bobcats vulnerable to Northern Illinois big man Marin Maric. Maric finished the game with 22 points and 14 rebounds.

Campbell’s five points and three rebounds, meanwhile, were also season lows for him. It was one of just two conference games in which Campbell did not post double figures in scoring.

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“(Campbell)’s had a very good season altogether in terms of maintaining focus and not focusing on what’s next,” Phillips said. “He’s a pretty competitive kid. I expect him to have his eyes focused on the task ahead.”

Ohio will come into the game looking not only to avenge its previous loss to Northern Illinois, but also a loss in its most recent game, a 80-68 defeat against Akron.

Campbell and senior Treg Setty each posted double-doubles in the game, but the Zips’ ability to sink outside shots at crucial points turned out to be the difference in the game.

Another Bobcat looking to correct mistakes will be redshirt sophomore point guard Jaaron Simmons. Simmons had posted a pair of strong performances in back-to-back games entering Tuesday, including a 17-assist evening at Toledo, but struggled against Akron, turning it over eight times.

The former version of Simmons showing up Saturday would be big for Ohio, who can’t afford not to maximize offensive possessions against the Huskies’ stout defense. Northern Illinois' defense ranks first in the MAC in scoring, surrendering 66 points per game this season. 

“They’ve got good defensive feet at all positions, and a good understanding of help side,” Phillips said. “They can give maximum help, and still run people off the line. It’s been a staple of what they’ve done since (coach Mark Montgomery) got there. I think you’re starting to see a system really take hold there.”


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