Sophomore Marin Maric tied a career-high with 22 points and 14 rebounds as he posted his fifth double-double of the season in a contest that featured 10 ties and 18 lead changes.
The win improved . . .
Junior Aaric Armstead scored 14 points and added nine rebounds while freshman Laytwan Porter set a new career-high with 13 points and grabbed a career-best eight rebounds.
“It was a typical MAC game,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “Tough defense, efficient offense. Ohio is a very well-coached team; you just have to find a way to get multiple stops, score some baskets and survive. I thought our freshmen really got a feel for what it is like to play in a conference game.
“I thought both teams were locked in from beginning to end. We were efficient at the free-throw line and shooting threes, we had more assists than turnovers; our guys were very focused, and that is why we came away with the win.”
A triple by Treg Setty gave Ohio a one-point lead, 53-52, just before the midway point of the second half, but Armstead answered with the next three to push the Huskies back in front, 55-53.
After Ohio split a pair of free throws, Maric scored the next six to push the NIU lead to seven, 61-54, with just over six minutes to play.
The Bobcats climbed back within six, 65-60, with 3:53 left before Baker took over, scoring NIU’s next 13 points. The senior from Detroit knocked down a triple with just over two minutes left to push the lead to eight and, after an old-fashioned three-point play from the Bobcats, scored the next six in the game to give NIU a 74-63 lead in the final minute, propelling the Huskies to the win.
NIU held Ohio to just 27.6 percent (8-of-29) shooting from the field in the second half; the Huskies shot 45.5 percent (10-of-22) after the break, and also went 20-of-24 (83.3 percent) from the free-throw line.
Jaaron Simmons scored 19 points to lead the way for Ohio; Kenny Kaminski and Treg Setty each added 15 for the Bobcats.
Ohio led by one in the early going until a triple from Armstead gave the Huskies a two-point advantage, 13-11. With NIU leading by one, Armstead split a pair of free throws and made a layup to give the Huskies a four-point lead, 19-15, with 11:45 to play in the first half
Armstead scored nine of his 14 points in the first eight minutes of the contest to fuel the Huskies early.
The Bobcats responded with a 9-0 run to take a 24-19 lead just past the midway point of the opening half. Baker ended the Ohio run with a triple to cut the Bobcat lead to just a pair, 24-22.
NIU and Ohio traded the lead over the final eight minutes of the first half. A pair of free throws from Porter pushed the Huskies in front, 36-35, with 1:35 left before the intermission and Maric split a pair at the line in the final minute to give the Huskies a 37-35 lead at the break.
Armstead and Maric each scored 11 to pace the Huskies in the opening 20 minutes; NIU shot 54.5 percent (12-of-22) from the field, including 58.3 percent (7-of-12) from three-point range.
Ohio scored eight of the first 10 out of the intermission to take a four-point lead, 43-39. NIU answered on a layup by Porter off an offensive rebound and a triple from Baker to swing the lead back to the Huskies, 44-43, with 15:21 remaining.
The two teams traded leads until just past the midway point of the second half when Armstead’s three-straight points put the Huskies in front for good as NIU outscored Ohio, 28-16 in the final 10 minutes.
NEXT: Northern Illinois hosts Eastern Michigan (Approx. 5 p.m., ET, second half of double header). Ohio is at home against Ball State (2 p.m. ET).
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)