Ohio opened Mid-American Conference play the same way it ended nonconference action: with a game that went down to the final few possessions.
Only this time, Ohio (8-5, 0-1 MAC) came out on the losing end. The Bobcats squandered a big lead Saturday in their 72-66 overtime loss to Northern Illinois (8-6, 1-0 MAC) in The Convo.
After leading by double digits for most of the first half, Ohio lost all its momentum in the second half and was outscored by 19 in the second half and overtime. The Huskies continued to cut into the lead and eventually Ohio’s dam broke. After Ohio lost the lead for the first time in the second half, the game became a back-and-forth battle, but NIU led for most of the final sequence.
Ben Vander Plas nailed a 3 with 8.4 seconds remaining in regulation, and he was fouled. The shot tied the game, but he missed the winning free throw, sending the game to an extra period. Overtime was more of the same. Jason Carter fouled out with 1:46 to play and Ohio down one, and the Bobcats continued to claw without him.
But it wasn’t enough.
The loss is just the Bobcats third in their last 13 meetings with the Huskies.
Carter picked up his fourth foul in the middle of the second half, but returned with 8:20 to play and immediately made an impact on the game, scoring on the first possession. He finished with nine points, battling foul trouble.
Despite nine first half turnovers, the Bobcats led 34-21 at the break, and it seemed like they would coast to their first conference win. Teyvion Kirk led all scorers in the half with 10 points, and the Bobcats shot 53.8 percent from the floor.
The leading scorer in the MAC so far this season, German was held to only eight first half points, shooting 3-7 from the field. Ohio’s defense suffocated German and forced him into tough shots.
Ohio jumped out to a quick start behind a seven-point scoring run by Jason Preston to open the game. By the first media timeout of the game, Preston was outscoring the Huskies 7-2 by himself.
Following that run, Kirk began to take over the game, with help from his supporting cast. As the half progressed, the Huskies shook their slow start from the field and began to put a dent into the Bobcats’ lead. They cut the advantage to as few as eight points before Ohio regained a sizable cushion it took into the break.
Ohio will travel to Bowling Green on Tuesday for another MAC game. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.