Basketball wins regular season finale to claim seventh seed in MAC Tournament


Michigan State guard Cassius Winston (5) makes a layup as Northern Illinois defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

By Khobi Price

Men’s basketball defeated Ball State University 64-57 in its regular season finale Friday in Muncie, Indiana. The win gave NIU the opportunity to host the opening round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament for the first time since 2016.

The Huskies clinched the seventh seed in the MAC Tournament with their win over the Cardinals. They’ll face-off against tenth seed Ohio University 8 p.m. Monday in the Convocation Center.

The winner will move on to play the second seed Toledo Rockets in the quarterfinals of the tournament.

“Our defense was outstanding after the first six minutes of the game,” Head Coach Mark Montgomery said to NIU Athletics. “They jumped out to a 10-point lead and we finally started to rebound and get back in transition. Our defense was stellar for the last 15 minutes of the first half and we came out in the second half and set the tone.”

Ball State used a 16-2 run to take an early 18-4 lead with 12:03 left in the first half. Junior guard Eugene German knocked down a 3-pointer to spark a 17-4 run that pulled the Huskies closer at 22-21 with five minutes remaining before the break.

NIU took its first lead of the game at 25-24 on a German free throw with 2:19 before the game’s midway break.

Ball State junior guard Tayler Persons knocked down a jumper with 36 seconds left in the half to give the Cardinals a 28-27 lead at halftime.

Neither team led by more than five through the first 15 minutes of the second half.

German knocked down a 3-pointer with 6:59 left, igniting a 9-0 run capped off by a senior forward Levi Bradley layup to put the Huskies up 54-45 with 3:44 remaining.

The Cardinals didn’t cut NIU’s deficit to less than five for the remainder of the contest, giving the Huskies the victory.

Bradley scored a game-high 22 points. Junior forward Noah McCarty tallied his first career double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

German finished with 15 points, while senior guard Dante Thorpe added 13. NIU committed a season-low five turnovers.

The Huskies finish their regular season with a 15-16 overall and 8-10 MAC record. They’ll focus on getting their first MAC postseason victory since the 2015-16 season versus Ohio. NIU will face-off against tenth seed Ohio University 8 p.m. Monday in the Convocation Center.