Comeback falls short as the Huskies fall to Bowling Green in MAC Semi-finals


Comeback falls short as the Huskies fall to Bowling Green in MAC Semi-finals

By Khobi Price

CLEVELAND, OHIO — Men’s basketball’s 2018-19 season concluded Friday in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Semifinals, dropping a hard-fought contest to Bowling Green State University 71-67 in Cleveland, Ohio.

After trailing by 23 at halftime, the Huskies tied the game for the fifth time of the contest at 56, but a 7-0 Falcons run in the game’s final minutes helped Bowling Green fight off the NIU comeback.

“I told the guys if we’re going to go out, we’re going to go out with a fight,” junior guard Eugene German said. “It’s all about pride. At the end of the day, we can’t go out like that.  If this is going to be our last game, we’re [going to] go out with a fight, so I feel like we went out with a fight.”

German and senior forward Levi Bradley combined for 47 of the Huskies’ 67 points.

German tallied four rebounds, five assists and scored a game-high 31 points on 12-18 shooting from the field. Bradley added 16 points and five rebounds.

NIU took an early 7-1 lead after German made a 3-pointer with 17:49 left in the first half. Bowling Green tied the game at 7 before the Falcons went on a 13-4 run sparked by Bowling Green junior guard Dylan Frye’s 10 points to take a 20-11 advantage.

German knocked down his second 3-pointer of the game to bring the Huskies’ deficit down 20-14 with 10:39 remaining in the half.

NIU scored seven of the following 11 points to bring the score to 24-21 before the Falcons scored 12 unanswered points to go up 36-21 with 2:39 remaining in the half.

Bradley knocked down a pair of free throws before Bowling Green scored the final 10 points of the period to take a 46-23 halftime advantage.

The Huskies shot 30.8 percent from the field and missed their final 10 field-goal attempts in the first.

The Falcons shot 60 percent from the field and beyond the 3-point arc in the opening period, scoring 16 points off NIU’s eight first-half turnovers.

“Our defense wasn’t together like it was the past two games,” German said. “We had to just come into halftime and, you know, get chewed out by our coach so we could just go out there and keep our energy up. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the [win] tonight.”

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The Huskies scored the first eight points of the second half to reduce their deficit to 46-31.

Bowling Green sophomore guard Justin Turner knocked down a jumper before NIU tallied 10 unanswered points to bring the Falcons lead down to 48-41 with 13:13 remaining in the game.  

Bowling Green went up 56-49 after a Bowling Green senior forward Demajeo Wiggins free throw. German made layups on consecutive possessions before Bradley knocked down a pair of free throws to reduce the Huskies deficit to three with 7:52 left.

Both teams went scoreless over the ensuing two-and-a-half minutes before junior forward Noah McCarty made just his eighth 3-pointer of the season to tie the game at 56 with 5:13 remaining.

Turner made a pair of free throws to put Bowling Green up 58 to 56 with over four minutes left in the game. Bradley knocked down a German assisted jumper to tie the game at 58, as the back-and-forth battle continued.

Frye made a pair of free throws to put the Falcons up by two. Bradley turned the ball over on the next possession leading to a Turner jumper on the other end to put Bowling Green up 62-58.

German turned the ball over on the following possession, leading to a Frye corner 3-pointer to give the Falcons a 65-58 lead with 2:20 left in the game.

The Huskies were unable to bring their deficit to within three for the remainder of the game, losing by four to end their season.

“You have to give Bowling Green a lot of credit,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said. “I thought their defense was stifling. But you saw that these NIU Huskies had a lot more fight in them. Anytime that you can be down 23 with five minutes to go and tie it, it’s anyone’s ballgame. We felt we had a good shot and we just didn’t close.”

NIU shot 64.3 percent from the field in the second half and held the Falcons to 24 percent shooting. The Huskies held Bowling Green to just 12 points through nearly 17 minutes in the second half.

McCarty added seven points, seven rebounds and two blocks off the bench. Frye scored a team-high 25 points.

NIU finishes the year with a 17-17 overall record, its most wins in a season since 2015-16.

Bowling Green will face-off against the Buffalo Bulls in the MAC Tournament Championship game 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena.