Armstead scored a team-high 21 points, while sophomore Marin Maric recorded his fourth consecutive double-double with 17 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
Freshman Laytwan Porter added 10 points as the Huskies improved to 17-8, 6-6 in Mid-American Conference play. NIU’s 17 victories is the most for the program since the 2005-06 season, when the Huskies also won 17. With the loss, MAC-leading Akron falls to 20-5, 9-3 in league play.
“It felt like a heavyweight fight,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “You can see why . . .
“We decided to go small and found a way to generate some baskets getting to a basket and some clutch drive-and-kick shots from threes. It seems like every MAC game comes down to the last four or five minutes and I’m glad to have Aaric Armstead on my team today; he made two clutch free throws at the end.”
NIU scored 17 points off of 13 Akron turnovers, while the Zips converted just five points off of a season-low seven Huskie miscues.
A triple from Jake Kretzer with 10:53 to play gave the Zips a 61-52, but NIU responded with a 17-3 run to take a 69-64 lead with just over six minutes to play in the contest.
Senior Travon Baker and Maric each knocked down triples to open the run, and a free throw from Maric trimmed the Akron lead to just a pair, 61-59.
Following a three by Akron’s Josh Williams, Baker canned another trey, senior Chuks Iroegbu added a bucket, freshman Marshawn Wilson made a trifecta and sophomore Andrew Zelis scored off an offensive rebound to give the Huskies a five-point lead. Wilson finished with nine points and Baker finished with seven points and a game-high five assists.
Akron scored seven of the next nine, pulling even, 71-71, on a triple from Noah Robotham with 4:52 to play.
After empty possessions both ways, Armstead pushed the Huskies in front with a dunk with 2:20 remaining. Following free throws after a technical foul on the Akron bench, NIU led by four, 75-71, until the Zips scored six-straight. Williams knocked down a triple, Isaiah Johnson split a pair of free throws and Williams then made a pair from the line as Akron took a 77-75 lead with less than a minute to play.
On the next possession, Armstead drove to the bucket, made the layup and got fouled. The junior from Chicago converted the three-point play to push NIU back in front, 78-77 with 36 seconds remaining.
Akron went back in front again on two free throws from Johnson with 15 seconds left. NIU took the ball and raced down the floor; the Huskies missed the initial shot attempt but the rebound went out of bounds to NIU with 4.8 seconds left.
Armstead caught the ball on the wing and drove to the basket, but he was fouled with 1.7 seconds to play. Armstead coolly sank both free throws to push the Huskies in front, 80-79.
Following a timeout, the Zips threw the ball just past midcourt but couldn’t get a shot off and NIU ended Akron’s seven-game winning streak.
Williams led all scorers with 22 points; Johnson added 16 and Robotham chipped in 11 for the Zips, who made 15 three-pointers in the contest.
In the first half, a triple from Porter gave NIU a six-point lead, 20-14, with just over 12 minutes to play before the intermission. Akron answered with a 13-1 run, including three triples, to take a 27-21 lead with eight minutes to play before halftime.
Akron led 32-26 with 5:36 to play in the half before a 6-0 Huskie burst pulled NIU even. Porter knocked down a jumper to ignite the burst, freshman Levi Bradley added a layup and Maric brought the game back level with a pair of free throws.
The Huskies led by one, 40-38, after a pair of buckets by Maric late in the half, but a triple from Antino Jackson gave Akron a 41-40 lead at the intermission.
After the break, Reggie McAdams made triples on each of Akron’s first three possessions of the half as the Zips extended their lead to a half-dozen, 50-44.
The Akron advantage swung between six and eight after two sets of free throws from Johnson and buckets from Zelis and Wilson. After Wilson’s bucket, Kretzer canned a trifecta to put Akron in front by nine before NIU’s 17-3 run to get back in the game.
Bowling Green at Northern Illinois (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)
Buffalo at Akron (Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET)
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)