Bowling Green State University’s Richaun Holmes, left, defends against Northern Illinois’s Aaric Armstead during the second half on Sunday. Both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm.
BOWLING GREEN — The last time teams from Bowling Green and Northern Illinois met, the world watched.
Sunday the men’s basketball teams from the two schools met. And the world winced.
Well, only the 1,982 at the Stroh Center had to shield their eyes as the two teams combined for just 81 points, more turnovers (30) than field goals (26), and more free throws missed (27) than made (22).
PHOTO GALLERY: BGSU men fall to Northern Illinois 45-36
In the end, the Falcon football team’s 47 points against the Huskies in winning the Mid-American Conference championship outdid the men’s basketball team, which lost to NIU 45-36.
That 36-point total was the lowest for a BG basketball team since 1995.
Northern Illinois used an 11-1 scoring run in the game’s final five minutes to improve to 7-7 overall and 1-1 in the Mid-American Conference. Travon Baker had six of his team-leading 13 in the spurt that helped the Huskies snap a three-game losing streak against BG.
“When you’re in a low-scoring game, every possession becomes big,” Bowling Green coach Louis Orr said. “It’s hard to make up ground. …
“When it’s a close game, when it gets to be a six- or eight-point game, it’s tough to come back.”
Richaun Holmes had 12 points to lead the Falcons, whose fourth straight loss dropped them to 6-9 overall and 0-2 in the MAC.
In the game, Bowling Green made 12-of-41 shots from the field (29.3 percent) and turned the ball over 17 times.
Orr gave much of the credit for his team’s offensive struggles to Northern Illinois.
“The way they play defense, they fill the gaps and the driving lanes,” Orr said. “We struggled from the line, and we struggled from the field.
“They did a pretty good job of making us work to get the ball inside. Any time the ball was on the perimeter they made it tough for us to get into the lane.
“If you don’t make perimeter shots, that makes it tough.”
The good news for BG was that the Huskies also struggled to score, connecting on 14-of-43 shots (32.6 percent) while coughing up 13 turnovers.
Bowing Green, which trailed 26-18 at halftime, received a second-half spark from Zack Denny. The freshman, playing his first game this season after missing extensive time because of a knee injury, connected on a pair of 3-pointers to key a 15-4 run in the first eight minutes that gave the Falcons a 33-30 lead.
“He did what we knew he can do — he can shoot the ball,” Orr said of Denny. “And I can’t even say we ran a play [for him]. He was 28 feet away from the basket when he shot the ball.
“He’s still got a lot to learn, but he’ll have to learn on the job because we need his shooting.”
BG managed three points in the last 12 minutes.
Jehvon Clarke’s baseline jumper with 5:16 on the clock gave the Falcons a 35-34 lead, but they missed five of their last six free throws as the Huskies began a final scoring burst.
NIU, which had shot 1-for-16 from the field to start the second half, made its last four shots to earn the win.
When asked after the contest if he was concerned about keeping his job as BG’s coach, Orr said, “I have one year left on my contract. I know [God] is my provider, and has provided for me for 55 years. …
“I hate losing, and we’re not playing well offensively. We have 16 more games to go, and if the Good Lord allows me to be here and coach … that’s what I’m going to do.”
NOTES: Senior Craig Sealey was not in uniform for the contest. He tried to practice in the days before the game but still is experiencing knee problems. … Southview High School graduate Shaun Joplin was in uniform for BG for a second straight game but did not play.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.