GAME NOTES: The Ohio Bobcats attempt to make it four wins in a row as they host the Northern Illinois Huskies at the Convocation Center in Mid-American Conference competition on Wednesday.
NIU is a slightly better team this season as it enters with a 3-11 overall record, which is two games ahead of last year's pace. The Huskies also sport a 1-1 mark in MAC action thanks to their 72-61 road victory over Miami-Ohio on Jan. 9. They then lost, 68-53, to Akron on Saturday to fall to the .500 mark. Coach Mark Montgomery has started 10 different players hoping to find a lineup that clicks. He may have found something in freshman swingman Darrell Bowie, who is posting 11.5 points and five rebounds per game over his last two outings. Bowie ranks first among freshman in MAC scoring while Abdel Nader paces the team with 13.6 points per contest.
Jim Christian's Bobcats finally collected their first true road win of the season on Saturday as they clipped Western Michigan, 61-59, to improve to 11-5 overall and 2-0 in the MAC. Ohio will gladly return to the Convocation Center, where it is 10-1 on the season thanks a trio of very lopsided victories over Maryland-Eastern Shore (93-57), Marshall (94-57), and Buffalo (86-68) in its three home bouts. The team is paced by its senior floor general D.J. Cooper. The school's all-time assist leader is third in the nation this season with 8.3 helpers per game to go along with his team-high 14.7 ppg. Walter Offutt and Reggie Keely are also carrying double-digit scoring averages into this one while Ivo Baltic's 5.3 rebounds per outing help inside.
The Bobcats hold a 29-16 all-time series lead versus the Huskies after their 67-58 win in DeKalb on Feb. 1, 2012.
Bowie scored a career-high 13 points on Saturday for NIU, but the team went 16-of-49 from the field (32.7 percent) including an ice cold 1-of-14 from beyond the arc (7.1 percent) to fall by 15 points to the Zips. The offensive woes have become routine for the Huskies, who own the MAC's the second lowest scoring average at 57.7 ppg and worst field goal percentage (0.378) as well. NIU is in the middle of the pack defensively with an allowed mark of 64.9 ppg, but Akron did not appear to be frustrated at all and could have produced more had it not missed 11 free throws.
Despite the close outcome, Ohio was in control for most of its bout with WMU despite 17 turnovers. The Bobcats hit 41.2 percent of their field goal attempts while limiting the Broncos to 28.3 percent shooting from the floor. Cooper led the team with an outstanding performance that consisted of 16 points, six assists, five rebounds, and two steals. Keely added 10 points in the triumph.
Ohio needs its role players to step up and alleviate some of the pressure being put on Cooper to deliver wins every game. This matchup should provide them with a chance to build some momentum before the team journeys into the heart of its MAC slate.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio University 81, Northern Illinois 60
01/16 10:47:10 ET
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