Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics

Ohio Takes on NIU in MAC Tournament

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After a few extra days off, Ohio meets Northern Illinois in the MAC quarterfinals in the Q Thursday night.

Seventh seeded Northern Illinois defeated 10th seeded Western Michigan Monday night 56-50 in DeKalb. The Huskies seeked out a win without leading scorer and rebounder Marin Maric, who received third team All-MAC honors. Without Maric down low, the Broncos won the rebounding battle early, but Northern Illinois adjusted as the game progressed, outrebounding Western 28-19 in the second half.

If Maric misses the quarterfinal game, Ohio looks to have a clear advantage in the post. Big man Tony Campbell was named MAC Player of the Year Wednesday and will pose an imminent threat to the Huskies both offensively and defensively.

Travon Bradley and Aaric Armstead led the Huskies in their first round game, scoring 18 and 12 points respectively. The senior presence of Bradley and the defensive effort from Armstead, who was named to the All-MAC defensive team, were key factors in the first round victory and will be crucial in the matchup with the ‘Cats as well.

The Bobcats and Huskies split the regular season series, each winning the game on its home floor. In Ohio’s win, the ‘Cats squandered a 16-point lead in the second half, but Jaaron Simmons came to the rescue, scoring or assisting on 15 of Ohio’s final 16 points. He finished the game with 24 points and 12 dimes, only committing one turnover all game.

Simmons, who was named second team All-MAC, will once again play a key role as the catalyst for Ohio’s offense. The ‘Cats shot 61 percent and scored 49 points in the second half of the most recent matchup. Against a Northern Illinois team that focuses heavily on defense, Ohio will need another efficient day of shooting to ensure a victory.

Ohio holds an advantage in three-point shooting (39 percent to NIU’s 35 percent) and points per game (78.5 to NIU’s 73). However, the Huskies force just over seven steals per game, and Ohio struggled with turnovers against a Miami team averaging 6.6 steals a game. Turnovers allowed Miami to come back after Ohio hopped out to an 18-point lead and could become an effective measure for Northern Illinois defensively as well.

Ohio inches closer and closer to a coveted conference title and a trip to the big dance but will have to get past the Huskies of Northern Illinois on Thursday at 6:30 pm first.