with gallery: Eastern Michigan basketball team upset by Northern Illinois in first round of MAC Tournament, 56-53
A potential game-tying 3-pointer by the Eagles’ Jamell Harris bounced off the rim as time expired, giving No. 12 seed Northern Illinois a 55-52 win in front of 843 at the EMU Convocation Center.
Eastern Michigan, the tournament's No. 5 seed, nearly forced overtime after being forced to foul and hoist 3-pointers to overcome a deficit in the final 40 seconds.
The standard late-game technique didn’t start out well, with Derek Thompson missing two 3-pointers and the Huskies’ Aksel Bolin and Stan Berg each hitting a pair of free throws for a 55-49 lead with 18 seconds remaining.
Thompson drained a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining, however, and Northern Illinois’ Nader Abdel missed an ensuing free throw to give the Eagles their last chance to tie.
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Harris’ miss at the buzzer capped off a night that saw the Eagles make 34-percent (16-of-47) of its shots and 26-percent (6-of-23) from 3-point range. Those numbers were marred by a terrible first half, during which the Eagles made 3-of-22 shots from the floor and 0-of-9 from 3-point range to trail 18-11 at halftime.
The Huskies weren’t setting the house afire early, either. When Matt Balkema scored Eastern Michigan’s first basket 9:48 into the game, it pulled the Eagles within 5-3.
Eastern Michigan, which won its first MAC West Division title since the conference split 14 years ago, ends its season with a 14-18 record. The Eagles were picked to finish last in the MAC West under first-year coach Rob Murphy, who was named the conference’s Coach of the Year earlier in the day.
Northern Illinois (5-25) moves to the MAC Tournament quarterfinals, where it will play Western Michigan at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. WMU beat Ball State, 69-63, on Monday.
By the time reporters were done flipping through the NCAA record book, looking for the fewest points scored in the first half of a Division I basketball game, both teams heated up early in the second half.
(The record, by the way, is split into pre- and post-inception of the 3-point shot in 1986. Before 1986, the record is 0, scored by North Carolina against Duke in 1979. After 1986, the record is 6, scored by Northwestern against Illinois in 2000.)
Eastern Michigan’s first shot of second half was a successful 3-pointer by Thompson. The Eagles made 5 of their first 8 shots -- including 2-of-3 from 3-point range -- and got a much-needed spark from Darrell Lampley.
The senior guard scored 10 points over a six-minute span that ended with EMU gaining its first lead of the game, 31-29, with 11:39 left to play.
But NIU responded with an 8-0 run -- including 3-pointers by Berg and Antone Christian -- to lead 37-31 with 8:17 remaining.
The teams combined to hit four straight 3-point baskets over a 95-second stretch late in the second half. Bolin and Tyler Storm connected for NIU while Thompson and J.R. Sims made shots for EMU.
Sims’ was the last in the run, pulling the Eagles to within 49-47 with 2:18 remaining
Sims (8 rebounds) and Lampley (6 assists) both finished with 13 points and Thompson scored 12 for EMU.
Tony Nixon scored 11 of his game-high 14 points in the second half and Bolin finished with 13 points for the Huskies.
The game was the last in an EMU uniform for Lampley and fellow seniors Antonio Green, Kamil Janton and Quintin Dailey.
Next season, the Eagles will gain the eligibility of transfers Glenn Bryant (6-7 forward from Arkansas) and Daylen Harrison (6-6 guard from Wyoming), who practiced with the team this season but were not able to play.