With its second victory in the past three road contests, the Eagles improve to 13-15 and 6-7 in Mid-American Conference play on the season. NIU falls to 5-21, 3-10 MAC on its 2012-13 campaign.
The Eagles shot 38.3 percent from the field, converting 18-of-47 shots while going 12-of-19 from the foul line. EMU turned 18 turnovers into 18 points, also outscoring NIU in the paint, 20-6.
EMU's defense was impressive all night long, holding the Huskies to 10-of-42 shooting for a 23.8 percent clip. The Eagles held NIU's leading scorer, Abdel Nader, to six points and 2-of-11 from the floor. The Huskies made frequent trips to the charity stripe, going 16-of-23.
Thompson started the scoring with three from the wing at the 18:26 mark of the opening half. On the next possession, NIU's Darrell Bowie and EMU's Bryant were issued with double technical fouls following a heated verbal exchange, along with some pushing and shoving. Retaining possession, the Huskies were able to knock down a pair of free throws to cut the EMU lead to one, 3-2.
With the game tied, 5-5, the EMU 2-3 zone tightened up, and the Eagles went on an 8-0 run. The spurt included a free throw after the game's third technical was called on Kevin Gray, his third personal foul of the half. J.R. Sims found Matt Balkema on a successful pick and roll, forcing a NIU timeout with the Green and White on top, 13-5, with 11:57 remaining in the first half.
Following the stoppage of play, the Huskies ended the run with a three by Antone Christian. However, Sims responded with a three of his own, putting the Eagles back up eight. Christian answered back from long range, making it 16-11 with 9:20 to go in the opening stanza.
NIU scored four more points to cut the lead to one. However, Bryant made sure his team would not surrender the lead as he added an offensive put-back as well as a thunderous dunk after a crisp pass courtesy of Sims. Thompson increased the lead with the next eight points for EMU, and Jalen Ross added a deuce to send the lead into double digits, 30-19 with 2:37 remaining in the first half. NIU held Eastern scoreless for the remainder of the half while scoring three points of its own, as the Eagles took a 30-22 advantage into the locker room.
Thompson led the way for EMU with 11 points in the first half, including 3-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Bryant added seven points along with three rebounds, one block and one steal. The Eagles shot 36.7 percent from the floor, draining 11-of-30 shots.
The EMU defense forced eight turnovers in the first half, converting them into 13 points. The Green and White held the rebounding advantage, 18-15, with the help of 10 offensive boards that assisted 10 first half points in the paint.
Christian and Nader paced the Huskies with six points apiece in the opening 20 minutes. Nader also corralled six rebounds to lead his team. NIU made one-third of its shots in the first half, going 6-of-18 for a 33.3 percent clip. The Cardinal and Black also converted 7-of-10 attempts from the charity stripe.
Both teams struggled to find the basket to start the second half. Ross finally broke the drought with a jumper from long range, sending the lead back to 11. The lead escalated to 13 following three points from Bryant to make it, 36-23, with 15:13 to go in the game.
With the Eagles using a stifling defense, the Huskies finally recorded their first basket of the second half at the 14:58 mark. The bucket, however, did not phase EMU as Rob Murphy's squad went on a 7-0 run to take a 17-point cushion, 43-26, with 11:05 remaining in the contest.
Bowie tallied seven straight points for his team to cut Eastern's lead to 10, 45-35, with 7:44 showing on the clock. Once again, though, the Eagles countered five straight points along with preventing buckets on the defensive end. With 4:40 left in the game, EMU found itself on top, 50-35.
Eastern would not let its lead drop into single digits the rest of the way.
EMU hoops will return to the Convocation Center Saturday, March 2, to take on in-state rival Western Michigan University at 2 p.m. The Eagles will try to avenge a 63-59 setback to WMU in Kalamazoo, Jan. 23 Northern Illinois hosts Central Michigan (8 p.m. ET).
-- Courtesy of Eastern Michigan Athletics