BOWLING GREEN - For 39 minutes, the game was a clinic of good fundamentals - from Bowling Green State University's season-best shooting percentage to season-low numbers in turnovers and fouls.
But at the end, fundamentals failed the Falcons.
With four seconds left and BGSU up by one, Northern Illinois' Mike McKinney tipped in Cory Sims' driving miss to lead the Huskies to a 75-74 win at Anderson Arena last night.
"We missed the block-out," BGSU guard Martin Samarco said.
Steven Wright's 3-point attempt on BGSU's last chance was short. The Falcons, who were up by 15 points with 13 minutes to play, fell to 5-8, 1-2 in the Mid-American Conference.
"This is one of the few games, quite frankly, I really felt like we deserved to win," BGSU coach Dan Dakich said. "Sometimes when you lose you know you deserve to lose, but I felt like for the majority of the game we competed and played well enough to win. We didn't get it done."
With the University of Toledo coming to town on Sunday, the Falcons began the game by making a statement about the power of home-court advantage despite a poor record. In front of 1,605, BGSU shot 73 percent from the floor in the first half and made 14 of its first 16 shots.
Junior Matt Lefeld, who had a career-high 19 points, was deft in the post. Samarco put on yet another shooting show, leading all scorers with 25, including six 3-pointers.
"What an offensive display Bowling Green put on in the first half," NIU coach Rob Judson said.
But Northern Illinois (8-4, 3-1) kept up. Reserve freshman center Craig Reichel, the Huskies' leading scorer with 20, made three of his four 3's in the half, and the Huskies held the deficit to 50-39 at halftime.
"As well as we played in the first half, I felt uncomfortable with only an 11-point lead," Dakich said.
BGSU took its largest lead of the game when Wright made a 3 to put BGSU up 62-47 at the 13:10 mark. The Huskies then went on an 18-3 run, forcing the Falcons out of the inside game they had established so well in the first half.
"Our defense in the second half slowed them down and helped our offense get in little bit more of a rhythm," Judson said.
Said Samarco: "I think they just dug down, they felt they were on the road and had a sense of urgency."
With 6 1/2 minutes left Reichel tied the score with a layup and it became a possession game. The Falcons fell down four points with 2:34 left, but Samarco brought them back with two free throws and a 3 to give them the lead.
With 52 seconds left BGSU had the ball and called a timeout. But the set play ended in what would be the first of Wright's two misses from behind the arc. With 30 seconds left the Huskies set up their last possession.
Northern Illinois' first three MAC games were decided by five points or less, so this scenario was old hat. The Falcons expected Sims to drive and defended it, but couldn't finish the stop.
"This was a very hard loss," Samarco said.
NOTES: Wright did not start the game. It was the first time he came off the bench since he returned from a foot injury last month. ... It was the first time BGSU scored 50 in a half since it scored 52 against Ohio on Feb. 7, 2005. ... BGSU had a season-high five blocks.
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