NIU, a No. 7 seed, will host Western Michigan on Monday night in the First Round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. No. 6 seed Ball State will be the sixth seed and host 11th-seeded Miami on Monday.
Franko House led BSU with 19 points, followed by Francis Kiapway (16), Ryan Weber (14) and Jeremie Tyler (13).
Junior Aaric Armstead paced . . .
“I’m so happy for Travon Baker and Chuks Iroegbu, their last (regular season home) game is going to be very memorable,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “It is always hard to play on senior day and I thought they both played well. I thought the guys rallied behind them.
“We rebounded as a team, we were very efficient shooting the three, we shared the ball, we defended and we found a way to win the game. Our second unit was huge, (Michael) Orris, (Levi) Bradley, (Andrew) Zelis and (Laytwan) Porter, they stretched out the lead and gave us a lot of momentum.”
Armstead knocked down four triples in the contest, Wilson and freshman Laytwan Porter each netted three as the Huskies tied a school record set on Feb. 27, 1988 at Chicago State.
Knotted at 7-7, Ball State scored the next four to take an 11-7 lead early in the contest. The Cardinal lead was still four until a 10-0 run pushed the Huskies in front, 20-14. Armstead opened the run with a triple, Porter added a trifecta before freshman Jaylen Key and Iroegbu chipped in layups as NIU took a six-point lead with 11:34 to play in the opening half.
Key finished with eight points, five rebounds and three assists.
Ball State (19-12, 10-8 MAC) responded with the next five to cut the Huskie lead to one before a jumper from Baker pushed the Huskie advantage to three, 22-19, with 8:28 left before the break.
Baker’s jumper ignited a 12-3 burst that gave NIU a 32-22 lead with just over five minutes to play in the half. Wilson and Armstead each knocked down triples during the burst, while Bradley added a bucket and Baker finished the run with a layup on the break.
Baker recorded four assists and three steals to go along with his 11 points on senior night.
The Cardinals scored the next seven to trim the Huskie lead to just three with less than three minutes to play in the half, but a trifecta from Porter and a layup from Iroegbu, off a dish from Porter, gave the Huskies a 37-29 lead at the intermission.
NIU (20-11, 9-9 MAC) shot 50 percent (15-of-30) from the field in the first half, including 50 percent (7-of-14) from three.
The NIU lead was six, 44-38, with just under 15 minutes to play before Bradley scored seven-straight points, pushing the Huskie advantage to 51-38 with 13:31 left.
After a basket by the Cardinals, Bradley knocked down another triple and Porter dialed long distance as the NIU lead grew to 17, the largest of the night, 57-40, with 11:41 remaining.
Ball State cut the lead back to just eight, 59-51, with a little over nine minutes to play, but the Huskies scored six of the next nine points, four from Iroegbu and two from Key, to push the lead back to a dozen.
The Cardinals split a pair of free throws and Baker connected on another triple for the Huskies as the NIU lead grew back to 14 with 6:36 to play.
NIU shot 51.7 percent (15-of-29) from the field in the second half, including 70 percent (7-of-10) from three, to finish the game shooting 50.8 percent (30-of-59) from the field and 58.3 percent (14-of-24) from three. The NIU bench outscored its counterparts 24-3 in the contest.
The Huskies will be the No. 7 seed in the MAC Tournament and host No. 10 Western Michigan on Monday night at the NIU Convocation Center.