Junior Eugene German scored a game-high 23 points, senior Dante Thorpe had 18 points and senior Lacey James chipped in 14 as the Huskies earned their third-straight victory.
NIU (16-16) shot 56.1 percent (32-of-57) from the field, including 56.3 percent (9-of-16) from three-point range, while holding Ohio to just 38.9 percent (21-of-54) and 11.1 percent (2-of-18) from three.
“Our guys were locked in right away,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “The focus level, the energy, our guys were ready to play tonight. This was probably our best first half of the season. We started inside; (Eugene) German got us going outside. Ohio is a good team coming in. They had won three of five (and) they were playing impressive basketball.
“You could tell from the beginning that it was going to be our night. A great crowd came out to support us. It should be a fun tournament in Cleveland.”
James scored seven points, including a corner triple, in the opening four minutes as the Huskies took an early 10-5 lead.
Ohio (14-17) had pulled within one when German and freshman Austin Richie knocked down back-to-back triples to extend the NIU advantage to 18-11 with 11:36 to play in the opening stanza.
A basket by senior Levi Bradley started a 7-2 burst for the Huskies as Thorpe made a bucket and German added a triple to push the NIU lead to 25-16 with just over eight minutes to play in the first half.
Bradley finished with eight points, five rebounds and a career-high tying five assists.
NIU pushed its lead to 16 with a 9-0 run, ignited by a floater from Thorpe. Junior Noah McCarty added a dunk off a feed from Thorpe, Bradley made a jumper and Thorpe added a triple from the wing as the Huskies led 40-24 with 2:24 to play before the break.
McCarty finished with six points and a team-high six rebounds.
The NIU lead reached 18 on another basket by McCarty before Ohio closed the half with a pair of free throws to trim the Huskie advantage to 44-28 at the intermission.
German scored 14 points in the opening 20 minutes, including 4-of-5 from three-point range, as the Huskies shot 62.1 percent (18-of-29) as a team, including 8-of-10 from beyond the arc.
NIU started the second half with a 7-2 spurt as the Huskie lead grew to 21, but Ohio answered with the next seven, trimming the NIU lead to 51-37.
McCarty scored off a feed from Bradley, Thorpe added a floater, German finished on the break and Bradley made a hook shot in the lane as the Huskies led 59-37 with just over 12 minutes remaining.
Ohio came back with the next six before baskets from Thorpe and sophomore Rod Henry-Hayes stopped the mini-run by the Bobcats.
The Bobcats got within a dozen with just under three minutes to play, but NIU quickly answered with a bucket from James and never looked back. NIU traded a pair of baskets for Ohio free throws and then the Huskies closed the show with an 8-2 run over the final 2:18 to eliminate the Bobcats and advance to Cleveland for the first time since 2016.
Doug Taylor finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead Ohio, Teyvion Kirk and Jason Carter each added 14 points.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)