The story of the game was NIU's slashing guards Mike McKinney and Cory Sims' ability to get to the basket and their knack of knocking down important free throws. McKinney scored 22 points (7-9 from the floor, 8-9 from free-throw line), while Sims added 17 points (5-12 from the floor, 5-7 from charity stripe). And when they were not scoring, the duo would penetrate the defense and find the Huskies' top scorer, Todd Peterson, for open three's. Although the Herd held Peterson scoreless for the first 33 minutes of the contest, the forward came through with 11 points in the final seven minutes, with nine of those on three-point baskets.
The Herd and Huskies played a very competitive, back-and-forth, sluggish first half, with Northern Illinois going into the halftime break with a 32-30 lead after a running, banked-in three-pointer by Sims from the top of the key to end the first half of play. The lead changed eight times in the first half and the score was tied on three other occasions. Both teams were relatively cold from the floor, with the Huskies shooting 36.4% from the floor and Marshall 33.3% from the field. Both teams also combined for 15 first half turnovers.
The second half belonged to Northern Illinois, although Marshall stayed within two possessions for the first 13 minutes of the half. NIU ran off ten consecutive points from the 6:22 mark to the 4:43 mark after Marshall had cut the Husky advantage to seven (60-53) to pull away from the Thundering Herd. The 11-point final margin would be as close as MU would get the rest of the way.
"I thought Northern Illinois played a very good second half, and I thought that they got stronger as the game went on," said Marshall head coach Ron Jirsa. "They penetrated and got to the free throw line, and Peterson got a good rest and played well down the stretch. You've got to give them credit for a good game plan and a good second half."
"In the second half, we didn't play very well," said senior guard A.W. Hamilton. "We gave up 45 points in the second half, and you can't do that and win a game. We played pretty good defense in the first half, and had a little let down in the second half."
Marshall continues its road swing with a game at Ball State on Sunday afternoon. Tip-off time is 2 p.m. The game can be seen live on the Thundering Herd/ISP Television Network.