Richaun Holmes had 12 points, eight rebounds and six blocked shots and freshman guard Zack Denny made his Bowling Green debut, but the BGSU men's basketball team shot just 29 percent from the field in a 45-36 loss to Northern Illinois Saturday evening at the Stroh Center.
Holmes had at least five blocks in a game for the fourth time this year and Denny gave the Falcons something it badly needs, a deadly outside shooter, but the NIU defense was too strong down the stretch. Denny played 19 minutes in his debut after injury kept him out of the first 14 games and he showed his potential early in the second half.
After Bowling Green trailed 26-18 at the break, the Falcons held Northern Illinois scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half. Denny's first career points, a long three-pointer from the top of the key, tied the score at 26-26. After a Northern Illinois three-pointer put the Huskies back ahead, Denny made another one from almost the same spot to tie it at 29-29.
Richaun Holmes then added back-to-back dunks and Bowling Green led 33-30 with 12:05 to play. Over the course of the next nine minutes, BGSU held Northern Illinois to just four points during a defensive stretch that could have put the game away. The Falcons, though, got only a Jehvon Clarke lay-up during the stretch and led 35-34.
With 3:01 to play, Aksel Bolin hit a three-pointer to give the Huskies the lead for good and NIU's Travon Baker followed with a lay-up to make it 39-35. After Denny made a free-throw to get the Falcons within three, Baker knocked down a three-pointer to ice the game.
While Holmes was the only Falcon to score in double-figures, Clarke added nine points, five assists and four rebounds. Denny finished with seven points but the Falcons shot only 29 percent from the field. NIU was not much better, finishing at 33 percent but the Huskies generated more opportunities with a 40-29 rebounding edge and four fewer turnovers than Bowling Green's 17.
With the win, Northern Illinois improves to 7-7 on the season and 1-1 in MAC play. Bowling Green falls to 6-9 overall and 0-2 in the conference. The Falcons return home to host Central Michigan Wednesday at 7 p.m.