Women's Basketball Final Score: Bowling Green State 66, Northern Illinois 58 (1/10)



College Basketball: Bowling Green 76, Northern Illinois 69

Box Score

NIU Men's Basketball Falls 76-69 At Bowling Green

Bowling Green, OH - Just four games into the Mid-American Conference season, it is becoming apparent that road wins will be at a premium. More so than in recent history, teams are successfully defending their home court, as just Western Michigan, Toledo, Kent State and Miami have locked up wins away from their friendly confines. Northern Illinois' third shot at a road win came up short on Saturday, as the Huskies fell 76-69 to Western Division rival Bowling Green, Saturday afternoon in Bowling Green, OH.

With the loss, NIU fell to 6-8 on the season, 1-3 in the MAC, while Bowling Green improved to 6-8, 2-1 in MAC action.

It's hard to say the outcome of a 40-minute game hinged on the result of one call early in the second half. After all, more than 50 plays happened before the call and close to 50 plays happened after it. But with Northern Illinois trailing 35-33 after a lay-up by Marcus Smallwood at the 18:22 mark of the second half, Anthony Maestranzi was called for a foul while diving for a loose ball, stopping an eventual game-tying dunk by P.J. Smith. That ensuing bucket would have brought the Huskies all the way back from a 16-point deficit (30-14) which they faced in the first half and gave the momentum to the Cardinal and Black visitors from DeKalb, IL.

"Big call, but I really liked the way Anthony (Maestranzi) hustled on the play," head coach Rob Judson said. "We had the momentum at that point and we were going to get the game tied up with 18 minutes to play. The guys fought hard after falling behind. I thought our run at the end of the first half gave us some momentum and we carried it over early in the second."

After that loose-ball foul, Smith picked up his second and third fouls in a matter of 23 seconds and NIU's leading scorer from the first half (13 points) was forced to sit the bench. During Smith's absence, the Falcons went on an 11-2 run to build their lead back to 11 (46-35) and NIU was never able to recover.

Give credit to the Falcons and senior center Kevin Netter for taking advantage of their opportunities. Netter, who scored a game-high tying 19 points, poured in 16 points in the second half, including eight consecutive following Smith's departure with foul trouble. While Netter flourished, Smallwood kept the Huskies tight, as he fought his way around double teams to drop in 18 second-half points and 22 for the game. Often a whirling dervish in the lane, the senior all-MAC selection followed misses and created baskets off the dribble to keep NIU alive. After scoring NIU's first nine points of the second half, Smallwood had his best night of the season at the free throw line, hitting 6-of-8 charity tosses. However with Smith on the bench, the Falcons were able to turn their focus to Smallwood, to keep the Huskies at bay.

"We just continue to have stretches were we aren't making shots and that is hurting us," Judson said. "We are getting good looks, the shots just aren't falling. This team is improving. Before, we would have those dry spells because of turnovers. We are starting to limit our turnovers and now we just need to hit more shots. We are getting there and we will get there."

The Huskies started the game in impressive fashion, as Smith buried a trey from the wing and hit a tough 15-foot jumper to give NIU a 5-0 lead. Following an offensive rebound, Steven Wright started a 10-0 Falcon run by hitting a three-point from the top of the key. Netter gave BGSU a 6-5 lead on a three-point play as the 6-foot-10 senior christened the Bowling Green free throw line, a popular place for the Falcons on this day. The top free throw shooting team in the MAC, Bowling Green hit all 15 free throw tosses in the first half to build up that 30-14 lead.

Following a 30-second timeout by the Huskies, Marcus Smallwood gave NIU just its second bucket in 8:07 as he keyed an 11-2 run with a tip in. Smith hit a pair of free throws and Maestranzi, NIU's second leading scorer with 14, hit a top-of-the key three to cut the lead to single digits. A pair of Johnathan Byrd buckets sandwiched a Smallwood lay-up to slice the lead to five. After two more BGSU free throws by Ronald Lewis, Smith capped the first half with a foul-line jumper to make the score 34-29 at the half.

After a pair of road contests in Ohio, the Northern Illinois men's basketball team returns to the Convocation Center on Jan. 14 to face Eastern Michigan University. Game time is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.

Copy by Dave Reiter



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