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Posted on Wed, Feb 22, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Second-half comeback keeps EMU basketball atop MAC West standings

By Staff

A rocky start to its second half on Wednesday night nearly cost the Eastern Michigan basketball team sole possession of the Mid-American Conference West Division.

Fortunately for the Eagles, last-place Northern Illinois had an even more drastic scoring drought ahead of it during EMU’s 48-45 win in front of 813 at the Convocation Center.

After EMU fell behind by 13 points midway through the second half, Darrell Lampley nearly single-handedly got the Eagles back into the game.

The senior guard scored 11 points - including a rare four-point play - and assisted on three other EMU baskets during an 18-1 run that gave the Eagles a 44-40 lead with 2:15 left to play.

Lampley finished with a game-high 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting and contributed five assists, three steals and four rebounds.

When Northern Illinois’ Aksel Bolin tipped in an offensive rebound with 1:19 remaining to make it 44-43, it ended a 10:31 span during which the Huskies went 0-for-11 from the floor and committed six turnovers.

Matt Balkema hit a pair of free throws to extend Eastern Michigan’s lead to 46-43 with 49 seconds left and Northern Illinois turned the ball over on consecutive possessions without attempting a potential game-tying shot.

Each team hit a pair of free throws in the final 11 seconds.

Northern Illinois (3-23, 2-11) started the second half with a 17-4 scoring run, taking a 39-26 lead on Antone Christian’s second 3-pointer of the half with 11:50 left to play.

The Eagles (12-16, 7-6) missed their first eight shots and turned the ball over three times before La’shonte Riley scored EMU’s first basket of the half with 12:29 remaining.

The win snapped a two-game losing streak for the Eagles and kept them one game ahead of Western Michigan in the MAC West standings. WMU (12-16, 6-7) beat Ball State, 78-61, on Wednesday.

EMU has three regular season games remaining, starting with a senior day date with Ball State at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The Eagles travel to Western Michigan and Toledo next week.