Freshman Marshawn Wilson scored 11 points, senior Chuks Iroegbu added 10 points and junior Michael Orris had a career-best nine assists as NIU improved to 10-2 on the season.
The Huskies led by as many as . . .
“We went up 14 and I thought we were playing pretty good basketball, but you have to credit UIC, they made some plays and got to the free-throw line,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “Credit to our upperclassmen, Travon Baker, Chuks Iroegbu, Michael Orris, Aaric Armstead hit a big three, Marin (Maric) had another double-double.
“When you are on the road you just have to find a way. Today it was switching from man (defense) and going to zone, I thought that stymied UIC. Credit our guys; it is never easy to win on the road. We made free throws and got clutch stops down the stretch.”
An early 10-0 run for the Huskies gave NIU a 12-4 lead less than five minutes into the contest. Baker opened the burst with a triple before back-to-back buckets from freshman Jaylen Key and a corner three from Wilson gave the Huskies the early eight-point advantage.
Key finished with six points and four rebounds.
UIC trimmed the NIU lead back to just three, 14-11, until the Huskies used an 8-1 burst to push the lead to double-digits, 22-12. Baker opened the run with a short jumper, Maric added a triple and a trifecta from Wilson gave the Huskies a 10-point lead with 7:44 to play in the first half.
A free throw for the Flames trimmed the NIU lead to nine before a bucket from Maric and another triple from Wilson pushed the Huskie advantage to 27-13 with 6:23 left before the intermission.
The Huskie lead was a dozen after a layup from Iroegbu, but UIC scored the final two points of the half to cut the NIU advantage to 33-23 at the break.
Wilson led NIU with 11 points in the opening 20 minutes; Dikembe Dixson led all scorers with 13 for UIC. The Huskies were 50 percent (14-of-28) from the field in the opening half, including 71.4 percent (5-of-7) from three.
Early in the second half, a basket by Maric gave the Huskies a 10-point lead, 44-34, but UIC responded with the next eight to trim the lead to just a pair, 44-42, with just under 12 minutes to play.
NIU responded with the next nine to take a 53-42 lead. Junior Aaric Armstead started the burst with a basket, Iroegbu and Armstead each added a pair of free throws and Orris capped the run with an old-fashioned three-point play with 9:22 remaining.
Armstead finished with seven points, all in the second half.
UIC came right back with the next six to trim the NIU lead back to just five, 53-48. The lead continued to hover around five into the final minute until a three-point play by Dixson for the Flames trimmed the NIU lead to just three, 60-63, with less than a minute to play.
Baker then went to the free-throw line and calmly drained a pair and, after a Huskie defensive stop, knocked down two more as NIU led by seven, 67-60, with 26 seconds remaining, putting the game out of reach.
Baker went 9-of-10 from the line in the second half, including 7-of-8 in the final minute, as the Huskies held off the Flames.
Dixson finished with a game-high 28 to lead UIC; Tai Odiase added 13 points and Jake Wiegand chipped in 10 points for the Flames.
NIU will return home on Saturday, Jan. 2, as the Huskies host Judson University in the final non-conference game of the season. Tip-off against the Eagles is scheduled for 1 p.m.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)