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Ohio Pays Back Northern Illinois with 78-67 Win

Feb. 9, 2006

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ATHENS, Ohio - Ohio converted 18-of-19 tries from the free throw line--including all six in the final minute--and leaned on 20 points from Leon Williams to pick up a 78-67 win over MAC West Division leader Northern Illinois Thursday in The Convo.

A suffocating Ohio defense caused a run of Huskie turnovers and gave the Bobcats (14-6, 8-4 Mid-American Conference) an early lead that they'd never relinquish. Ohio led by as many as 16 in the first half, and after its advantage was cut to five with less than two minutes left in the game, the Cats relied on efficiency from the charity stripe to come away the victory.

Williams' 20 marked a season high for the sophomore from Baltimore, Md. Williams, along with Johnnie Jackson (Memphis, Tenn.), paced an evenly spread rebounding effort for Ohio with four boards apiece. Williams and Jackson aside, six of the seven other players who saw time Thursday registered three boards each.

Antonio Chatman (Charleston, Mass.) continued to spark the Bobcats, this time netting 14 points with five assists and three steals. Jerome Tillman (Beavercreek, Ohio) hit a three and all four of his free-throw tries on the way to 11 points. Sonny Troutman (Indianapolis, Ind.) notched four steals on the defensive end to complement nine points on the other side.

Northern Illinois (13-8, 8-5 MAC) was led by 17 points from Todd Peterson. Guard Cory Sims recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds--including eight boards on the offensive end.

Ohio forced four turnovers on Northern Illinois' first seven possessions, jumping out to an early lead. The Huskies clawed back, though, tying the game at 11 with 14:35 left in the first half. From there, the Bobcats cruised into a 20-4 run that pushed the Bobcat lead to 16, 31-15, with 7:18 left in the half.

Northern Illinois answered right back, though, putting together a 16-5 run as the half came to a close to draw to within five, 36-31, at intermission.

For the half, both teams shot better than 50 percent from the field and equaled each other with 12 rebounds apiece. Peterson led all scorers with 13 at the break, while Williams paced the Bobcats with eight points. Chatman had three points, three steals and three assists after 20 minutes.

Ohio's defense was the story in the frame, converting 10 Huskie turnovers into 19 points.

Out of the locker room, it was the Chatman show. The sophomore point guard accounted for all of Ohio's first nine points, the last of which put the Bobcats on top 45-33 with 17:32 left in the game.

Once again, Northern Illinois climbed back into it. The Huskies cut the lead to five with 14:37 left, but that only set up another Ohio run. The Bobcats responded with an 11-2 spurt over the next five minutes to push the lead back up to 14, 58-44, with 9:05 remaining. A couple Tillman free throws less than three minutes later bumped Ohio's lead to 17--its largest of the night--with 6:15 left.

Northern Illinois used a three, then a layup as the clock dipped below two minutes to cut the lead to five. Over the next 1:47, though, Ohio converted six free-throw tries and used a Williams layin and a Troutman dunk to seal the league victory.

The Bobcats shot 49.1 percent (26-53) from the field and 36.4 percent (8-22) from the perimeter on the night. Northern Illinois countered with a mark of 44.6 percent (25-56) from the field and 34.6 percent (9-26) from the arc. Ohio scored 27 points off 16 Northern Illinois turnovers.

Senior Jeff Halbert (White Bear Lake, Minn.) returned to the lineup Thursday after missing two games with a knee injury. Halbert scored eight points with three rebounds in 13 minutes.

Sophomore point guard Jeremy Fears did not play Thursday, as he attended the funeral of a family member in his hometown of Joliet, Ill. Fears is expected to rejoin the team Friday.

Next up for Ohio is a date with Western Michigan in Kalamazoo on Sunday. The Bobcats and Broncos will clash at 2 p.m. in University Arena.