Huskies down MU despite Safford double-double
By MIKE SMITH
OXFORD, OH -- After surrendering a double-digit first half lead, Northern Illinois shot 61.5 percent from the field after intermission to register an 81-77 victory over Miami Tuesday at Millett Hall.
With the win, NIU raised its MAC record to 2-3 (6-12 overall). The RedHawks fell to 1-4 in conference play (7-11 overall).
Sophomore guard David Coit led the Huskies, sinking 9-of-15 shots from the floor and 3-of-5 treys on the way to 21 points. Zarique Nutter contributed 16 points and eight rebounds, followed by Kaleb Thornton (13 points) and Anthony Crump (11 points).
"In MAC play, there are some terrific guards," Miami Head Coach Travis Steele said. "Every team has got one or two guys that can really go -- create, play off the bounce, shoot the ball . . . We tried a little bit of everything (but) we really didn't have any answers for them."
Miami guard Morgan Safford, who does a . . .
. . . little bit of everything for MU, earned game-high honors in both points (27) and rebounds (10). Forward Anderson Mirambeaux connected on 8-of-10 shots from the field on the way to 18 points before fouling out. Point guard Mekhi Lairy managed 15 points despite drawing intense Huskie defensive pressure.
GAME PHOTOS TO COME WEDNESDAY
Northern Illinois quickly jumped in front and held the lead for nearly 18 minutes of the first half. "Offensively, we got off to a slow start with out turnovers early in the game," Steele said. "I don't think we had any of that in the last five minutes of the first half. That's why we went on a run."
The Huskies largest lead was 11 points at 5:35. They were still up by 10 after Darweshi Hunter's trey at 3:43. However, Safford hit back-to-back triples of his own to start a 15-4 RedHawk run to close the period. Two free throws by Julian Lewis with 30 seconds left allowed the hosts, who shot 53.6 percent before intermission, to hold a 40-39 edge at the break.
The RedHawks time in front was brief. Northern Illinois had the hotter hand in the second half and would finish the period hitting 61.5 percent overall. Coit's trey at 17:22 put the visitors in front for good, and his layup at 5:52 gave NIU a 12-point advantage (71-59).
Once again, Miami fought back, and the RedHawks twice pulled within two points in the final minute of play. Lairy's layup with 20 second left made it a 79-77 game, but Hunter then hit two free throws and Thornton came up with a steal to seal the verdict.
Though narrow, Northern Illinois owned an edge in most categories. It finished with one more field goal (29-28) overall, one more trey (7-6), one more free throw (16-15) and four more rebounds (32-28). Miami committed one more turnover, but the RedHawks had an 18-6 advantage in points off turnovers.
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.