Senior Jordan Threloff added 13 points and nine rebounds, junior Travon Baker chipped in 12 points, sophomore Marin Maric had 11 and sophomore Aaric Armstead netted 10 points.
"It was a heck of a game," said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. "In the last five minutes, either team could have won the game. We were just fortunate enough to get to the foul line more than Ball State. It was a hard-fought game, well-played.”
The Huskies will begin the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Monday as the No. 10 and travel to seventh-seeded Akron. Ball State, which nearly broke its 16-game losing streak, is a No. 12 seed and heads to No. 5 Bowling Green for the Monday matchup.
"I'm happy for our guys, the win gives us a four-game win streak and a little bit of momentum going to Akron,” Montgomery said.
Matt Kamieniecki paced BSU with 21 points. Joining him in double figures were Franko House (13), Sean Sellers (12), and Bo Calhoun (10).
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In the bonus period, Ball State pulled out to an early three-point lead, 61-58. The Huskies answered with five-straight free throws, three from Johnson and two from Threloff, as NIU took a 63-61 lead with 2:28 to play in the extra session.
Matt Kamieniecki, who scored a game-high 21 points for Ball State, evened the game with a layup but Johnson responded with a step-back triple, just NIU's second three of the night, to give the Huskies a 66-63 lead with 1:36 to play.
The NIU lead grew to six as Baker made three free throws and the Huskies went on to close out the four-point win.
Ball State led by one, 7-6, and used a 9-2 burst to take a 16-8 lead with just over eight minutes to play in the first half.
The Huskies answered with back-to-back baskets from Aaric Armstead and Baker to cut the lead to just four, 16-12, but Ball State answered with four of its own to regain an eight-point lead with 4:05 to play in the first half.
NIU closed the first half with an 8-2 burst to pull within two, 22-20, at the break. Aaric Armstead and Johnson each made a bucket during the burst, which was culminated with a driving layup off the window with three seconds to play in the half.
Kamieniecki led all scorers with eight points in the opening 20 minutes; Johnson netted seven to pace the Huskies in the opening period.
Ball State pushed its lead to five early in the second half, 27-22, but the Huskies answered with an 8-0 run to take a 30-27 lead with 16:33 to play. Aaric Armstead scored four of the eight during the burst for the Huskies.
NIU led by a pair, 35-33, but Ball State answered with the next five to take a three-point lead, 38-35. The Huskies responded with the next eight to lead 43-38 with 8:35 to play in regulation. Johnson connected on a triple to even the game and Maric added the next four as the Huskies pulled in front.
The Cardinals clawed back within one, 49-48, before a layup from Maric pushed the Huskie lead to three, 51-48, with just over four minutes to play. The NIU advantage was still three into the final seconds before the Sellers triple to send the game to overtime.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)