Eastern Michigan rallies late to defeat NIU Print E-mail
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YPSILANTI, MI - Junior center Sean Kowal recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 15 points and 11 rebounds, but host Eastern Michigan shot 54.2 percent in the second half, overcoming a 14-point deficit to defeat the Huskies, 65-59, in the first-round of the FirstEnergy Mid-American Conference Tournament at EMU's Convocation Center Sunday afternoon.

The loss ends NIU's season with a 10-20 overall record. The Eagles advanced to the tournament quarterfinals, where they will face No. 3 seeded Akron next Thursday at Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena.

Junior guard Xavier Silas joined Kowal in double figures with a game-high 20 points. Guards Darion "Jake" Anderson and Mike DiNunno each added nine points for NIU. Eastern Michigan was led by Brandon Bowdry's 19 points and 12 rebounds as he led a foursome of Eagles scoring in double figures.

The Huskies dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Eagles 39-27, but committed 18 turnovers, leading to 25 points for EMU. The Eagles out-scored the Huskies 42-30 in the second half, after falling behind by as many as 14 points in the opening frame.

"We were ready to play today, but obviously came up short," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "I thought (Xavier) Silas did a nice job; he didn't settle for the three-ball, and our guys were resilient. We came here on a mission to win the ball game. We had two more field goals than them (EMU), had one more three, and out-rebounded them by 12 with 11 offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, we didn't get to the free throw line enough to pull this thing out in the end.

"We return our top-10 scorers next season, but we need to get tougher and grow up as a team a lot in the offseason. We need to play better on the road, find ways to throw the first punch instead of withstanding it, and get stronger. Help is also on the way with some good young players - we'll get started on making this team better right away. I'm excited about next season, and am confident we'll put a product out on the floor that our fans will be proud of."
The Huskies held the Eagles to just two field goals in the opening 13:15, jumping out to a 22-8 lead with 11:21 remaining in the opening stanza. After a jumper by Quintin Dailey at the 6:45 mark, EMU broke its field goal draught and completed an 8-2 run to pull within six, 26-20. A conventional three-point play by Silas pushed NIU's lead back to nine (29-20) with 3:53 left, but Bowdry scored the final three points of the first half, keeping the Eagles within two possession (29-23) heading into the locker room at halftime.

Kowal played just 13 minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls, but he and Silas combined for 19 points in the opening 20 minutes. Bowdry accounted for two-of EMU's five first half field goals, chipping in 11 points. The Eagles shot just 25 percent in the frame, while NIU countered with a 48 percent effort.

The Huskies scored the first five points of the second half, on a post entry finish by Kowal and three by Silas, to build a 34-23 lead. EMU called a timeout, and then went on an ensuing 10-1 spree to pull within one (34-33) with 16:47 remaining. An ensuing 9-1 run by NIU pushed the lead back to nine (43-34) at the 13:14 mark.

The back-and-forth affair continued, as EMU went on a convincing 14-5 flurry to tie the game, 48-48, with 8:18 left. The Eagles claimed their first lead of the game, 55-54, at the 5:10 mark, after Justin Dobbins split one-of-two free throws. The Huskies were held scoreless for the ensuing 3:17, before a three by DiNunno cut the deficit to four, 61-57. EMU hit two free throws on the other end, and NIU could draw no closer than five points for the remainder of the contest.

Courtesy of NIU Athletics

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