Offutt, Bobcats roll over NIU


Erik Anderson | Northern Star

By Brian Belford

No one at the Convocation Center was really in a joking mood after NIU’s 67-58 loss to Ohio.

Except for head coach Mark Montgomery.

“Well, on national signing day we signed a 6’7”, 300 pound … no I’m joking. That’s football,” Montgomery said.

It’s hard to take losing that easy, but at least Montgomery was able to keep things light hearted after the Ohio defeated the Huskies.

NIU (2-18, 1- 7) looked like it was primed for an upset early on. The Huskies jumped out to a 15-11 lead, thanks to their half court defense, effective ball movement and offensive rebounding.

“They came out with a lot of energy,” said Ohio coach John Groce. “They were making threes, and they were getting us on rebounds and on hustle plays. I thought they were really scrappy early, and I thought they imposed their will in the first half,”

The Bobcats (18-4, 6-2 MAC) wouldn’t go away that easily.

Ohio fought its way back into the lead, claiming a 21-20 advantage at the six minute mark and took a 27-26 lead into halftime.

Trailing Ohio by one point, NIU had its fans on their feet after its surprising first half performance.

“I thought we played our best 20 minutes in the first half,” Montgomery said. “We got some guys going. We were scoring in a variety of ways, and our defense was very solid. I thought we did a good job of both containing and stopping D.J. Cooper and Ivo Baltic.”

Ohio came out in the second half and slowed the pace, as Cooper’s half court defense kept throwing NIU’s point guards out of sync.

The Bobcats switched to a zone defense which confused the Huskies, who settled for and missed a couple long shots in a row. The defensive switch gave Ohio all they needed to open up a double-digit lead.

“The reason we went to the zone was because we got into foul trouble,” Groce said. “I was worried because we had nine or 10 fouls at that point, so we started to play the zone.”

Two three pointers by guard Nick Kellogg and some easy transition buckets gave way to a 17-7 run for the Bobcats, who led 47-34 after 10 minutes of play in the second half.

“I thought they got more aggressive on the offensive end,” Montgomery said. “We couldn’t get a basket to go in, and the first six or seven minutes of the second half was where they got their lead.”

The Huskies seemed to lose in a similar fashion, missing a lot of shots and holding the ball too long on offensive possessions. Their mishaps on offense led to forced shots, but missed free throws helped Ohio gain an advantage.

After Ohio gained a 58-38 lead, the Huskies went on a 10-0 run, cutting the lead to 58-49 with 2:33 left.

NIU’s run was fueled by guard Antone Christian, who scored a season-high 15 points, going 6-11 from the floor, and grabbing four rebounds.

Despite resurgence by the Huskies, Ohio didn’t flinch.

The Bobcats increased their lead to 64-50 and eventually wrapped up their 18 win of the season.

“Our defense stepped up, they got a little tired and then we made our run,” Montgomery said. “Unfortunately, it was too little, too late,”