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Posted on Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 10:22 p.m.

Eastern Michigan basketball team upset by Northern Illinois in first round of MAC Tournament, 56-53

By Chris Asadian

The Eastern Michigan basketball team’s season of “firsts” ended Monday night with a first-round Mid-American Conference Tournament loss to Northern Illinois.

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.

Related contact: MAC scoreboard

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.



Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:06 p.m.

Forget the attendence issue - short notice after spring break and an unual Monday night game played a role - there are bigger issues People can spin it anyway they want, but losing this game was a huge step backwards. An unmitigated disaster! Why? Northern Illinois had not won on the road ALL season * First time a 12 seed advances * The team came out flat and scored one field goal in first 8 minutes; why was the team so flat? * The student section was as loud and motivated as it was all season; too bad the players were not * When they needed a big shot EMU chucked two air balls? TWO air balls? * Coach of the Year and his team loses before the trophy is engraved? * Team finishes with sub-500 record and wins a mediocre MAC West and loses first game to end season at home After watching the game I do not want to hear about the "positive" steps the program took or how they were picked to be last in the MAC. They underachieved tonight when it mattered most. They came out flat and though they played hard, they did not play well against a team that was terrible.


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

I was at the Huron v Skyline game last night, and that was a loud and energetic crowd of over 1000 fans at a high school game! I agree, EMU should go back to Bowen. I loved watching games there. The convo center is cold, dark and dull. I've been to 4 or 5 games there in the last 5 years. Not one of them had a crowd of over 1000.


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 8:10 p.m.

When you and Marvin went to games at Bowen, the team was good. They have not been good since the 1990s and it takes time to rebuild a fan base to get excited about a team. Monday was a chance to get the team to average before they get to "good" and they played terrible. But the optimists will tell us how they get to raise a banner for winning the MAC west --- they will say this as we watch the rest of the tournament on TV w/o EMU

Marvin Face

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

It is very sad that 845 people showed up for this. HUGE mistake building the convocation center where they did. So far away from everything. They should play games in Bowen again. It's right in the middle of campus where everyone can just walk in from campus residence halls and greek housing. That place was tiny but it was loud. It had cramped stairwells and the seats were hard and uncomfortable but we LIKED it! When 1000 people showed up to games it felt full and there was energy in the building.


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

What is worse than the loss is that for a MAC tounament game only 845 people showed up.

greg, too

Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 4:34 a.m.

No one at the football games, no one at the basketball games....D2 here welcome EMU to your ranks.