McCarty comes up in the clutch again for the Huskies against Ohio University


Junior Chris Johnson prepares to take a free throw Jan. 28 during NIU’s 61-59 win over Ohio University at the Convocation Center.

By Mike Knapp

DeKALB — When a game reaches crunch time, it doesn’t hurt to get the basketball in the hands of someone who has been there a few times before.

Senior forward Noah McCarty fits that description.

When it came time to deliver against the Ohio University Bobcats Tuesday night, he was ready. McCarty, playing in his 114th game as a Huskie, scored a career-high 16 points, with the final two coming on a bucket with 12 seconds remaining, giving NIU the 61-59 win.

McCarty actually had two big buckets down the stretch, as his 3-pointer with 1:11 to go gave the Huskies a 59-57 lead. Ohio redshirt sophomore forward Ben Vander Plas added a pair of free throws on the other end to tie the game with 45 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, McCarty got the ball in the paint, and his spin move and subsequent shot won the game.

Ohio had one last chance to tie the game, but first-year guard Ben Roderick’s free-throw-line jumper bounced off the rim just as the buzzer sounded, and the Huskies improved to 12-9 and 5-2 in Mid-American Conference play.

Tuesday marked the third time in the past six games that McCarty has scored in double figures. He’s averaged seven rebounds a game over that span.

“It’s just about having been here so long,” McCarty said. “I talk to [former NIU player] Levi Bradley every day, and he took a lot of big shots when he was here. He’s been telling me that I have to shoot more and have confidence in my game. Hearing that from him every day makes me feel like I can contribute and have an impact on the game.”

On the other end of the spectrum, first-year guard Tyler Cochran has played in just 21 college games, but he made an impact Tuesday night as well, recording the first double-double of his college career with 12 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

At 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 225 pounds, Cochran plays much bigger than his size inside, grabbing rebounds over much taller opponents. Cochran had five of the 11 Huskie offensive rebounds and has repeatedly shown a nose for the ball this season.

“My teammates always tell me to go get it, and that’s what I do,” Cochran said. “I just let the game come to me, and if it’s there, it’s there.”

It’s tough for first-year players to earn the trust of the coaching staff, but Cochran played 24 minutes in his first career game against Northern Iowa University in November and has been a mainstay in the rotation ever since.

That trust was forged over the summer, when Cochran showed he could consistently produce. Head Coach Mark Montgomery said that Cochran was a constant presence in summer play and has continued showing that well into his first season.

“He practices so hard, and he plays hard,” Montgomery said. “Most of his plays are just straight effort. When you make effort plays and can guard multiple positions, it’s hard to keep you off the floor. He has that gene; he has that ‘it’ factor, and once he’s in the game he stays a long time, and he’s productive. He makes winning plays, he has a good feel for the game, and that’s one thing you can’t teach.”

With the win, Montgomery moved into a tie with Brian Hammel for the third-most wins in program history with 117.

Also moving closer to a milestone was senior guard Eugene German. With his team-high 18 points Tuesday, German moved within 17 points of the school’s all-time scoring record. He now has 1,979 points.

The Huskies are back in action against the Miami University–Ohio 3 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.