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Ohio University guard Miles Brown (2) attempts a layup against a Northern Illinois defender at the Convocation Center on February 21, 2023.

Men's Basketball: Ohio wins sixth in a row, 77-68 over Northern Illinois

Ohio defeated Northern Illinois with no problem when it went to Dekalb, Illinois, earlier this month. However, Tuesday was different. Ohio and Northern Illinois were locked in a dogfight until the last few minutes, where Ohio came out on top with a 77-68 win. 

The Bobcats and Huskies scrapped in the first half. They traded jumpers and stayed on each other's tails until about five minutes in, when Ohio pulled away on back-to-back 3-pointers by Elmore James and A.J. Clayton. 

From there, Ohio cruised to an easy 10-point lead that didn’t last too long.

“We got it to 28-18, which I felt good about, and then we got soft,” Ohio coach Jeff Boals said. “We shot shots that we shouldn’t have shot, missed a dunk, gave up an offensive rebound put-back and then a random little 7-0 run.” 

Northern Illinois spent about five minutes in the lead during the first half. It found a way to squash Ohio’s momentum each time Ohio started a run. Yet, Ohio persisted and walked into the locker room with the game tied on a 3-pointer by Miles Brown. 

The fight continued when the whistle blew for the second half. The score ping-ponged until Ben Roderick made a 3-pointer off a turnover. 

The Convo roared and smiles splashed on the Bobcats’ faces. They were finally confident enough to play the game their way, even if it was the last six minutes of the game. The Bobcats played with joy rather than the fear of losing. 

Ohio University’s head coach, Jeff Boals, yells at his players after Northern Illinois ties the game early in the second half at the Convocation Center on February 21, 2023.

“For a while there, it was neck and neck,” Dwight Wilson III said. “Those final two minutes, coach said we got five deflections which we were able to turn into points, and I think that’s what caused the separation.” 

Freshman Elmore James was a big part of creating that room. He made a floater and a 3-pointer to give Ohio the space to breathe. Jaylin Hunter also contributed to the attack with a few steals and a block. 

“That was kind of the dagger there and all we had to do was get a couple more stops,” Wilson said. 

Wilson snagged his 1,000th career rebound Tuesday night and led Ohio in scoring with 24 points. Northern Illinois did not double team him as much as other opponents have this season, which gave Wilson the room to make up for what Ohio had lost in the paint. 

Northern Illinois scored 50 points in the paint compared to Ohio’s 40. Those extra 10 points could have been the difference between a win and a loss, had Northern Illinois shot better than 1-19 from beyond the arc. 

“We went to zone just to slow down and take the ball screen,” Boals said. “We were fortunate a couple of times we lost (Darwesi) Hunter, who’s the best shooter, and the one time he hit a (3-pointer).”

Ohio’s luck helped it tack one more game onto its win streak and clinch a spot in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. It has shed its struggles and built up an impressive six-game thread. However, Ohio’s got a long road ahead and if it continues with lethargic halves, it might face some trouble in March. 


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