Baker scored a team-high 18 points and added a team-best seven assists. senior Aaron Armstead added 15 while redshirt freshman Marin Maric and sophomore Aaric each added 10 points.
“Our guys came out with great energy, great effort and great focus,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “Early in the game we got stops, we took good shots. We shot 55 percent in the first half, and we sustained that in the second half, shooting 50 percent.
“We executed our sets out of timeouts and our guys had great patience and poise,” Montgomery continued. “They believed that we could win the game, but we still had to make plays. Travon Baker’s three was a huge shot and Anthony Johnson hit an unbelievable game-winning shot. We needed this win. It is a big momentum boost. We have had a lot of close losses so it was time to win one.”
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Following a timeout, the Huskies missed their first shot of the next possession, but senior Jordan Threloff grabbed one of his game-high 10 rebounds. With a second chance on the possession, Baker canned a corner triple to pull the Huskies back even, 81-81, with 55 seconds to play.
Toledo earned a trip to the foul line on its next possession and Justin Drummond split a pair to put the Rockets up by one, 82-81.
The Rockets went 27-of-31 (87.1 percent) from the line in the contest while the Huskies were just 7-of-8 (87.5 percent).
With NIU trailing by one, Johnson pulled up for a trifecta from the wing with a hand in his face and buried it to give NIU an 84-82 lead with 14 seconds to play. Johnson finished with nine points, and that was his lone three of the contest.
Toledo called a timeout with seven seconds left and Brown got the ball at the top of the key. The Huskie defense forced the Rocket guard to the sideline where he threw up a desperation heave at the buzzer that fell short.
Five Rockets scored in double figures, led by 20 points from Brown. Drummond and J.D. Witherspoon each had 17 pints, while Jonathan Williams and Nathan Booth chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Baker knocked down a trio of triples in the opening four minutes as the Huskies held an early 11-9 advantage. Baker found Threloff on a pick-and-roll for a dunk as the Huskie lead increased to four with 15:02 to play in the opening half.
Toledo pulled in front, 16-15, before the Huskies used an 11-2 run to open up an eight-point lead, 26-18, with 9:12 to play in the first half. Redshirt junior Keith opened the burst with a pair of free throws, junior Chuks Iroegbu added a basket, Aaron Armstead scored the next Huskie five and sophomore Michael capped the run with a pair of free throws.
The Rockets closed the gap to four, 26-22, but Johnson converted a layup and Aaric Armstead cashed in a three-point play as the NIU lead increased to nine, 31-22, with 7:35 to play before the break. Following a timeout, Orris knocked down a baseline jumper as the Huskies pushed their lead to double figures, 33-22.
Toledo cut the NIU lead to three, but the Huskies scored the final four points of the opening 20 minutes on baskets by Threloff and Aaric Armstead as NIU took a 41-34 lead into the intermission.
Baker led NIU with nine points in the opening half; J.D. Weatherspoon had 10 to pace the Rockets. NIU shot 55.2 percent (16-of-29) from the field in the first half.
The Rockets opened the second half with an 8-2 run to trim the NIU lead to just one, 43-42, but Aaric Armstead converted an old-fashioned three-point play to push the Huskie advantage back to four with 17:12 left.
Toledo pulled even, 52-52, and after the teams traded points on a pair of possessions and the Rockets moved in front for the first time in the second half, 59-57, with 12:13 to play.
The Rockets moved in front by five three times in the second half, the final time a 70-65 advantage with 7:38 left. Aaron Armstead answered with a triple and Baker converted a layup to pull the Huskies back even with 6:25 to go.
A jumper by Brown put the Rockets in front, 74-73, with 5:36 left before baskets from Maric and Aaron Armstead gave the Huskies a 78-75 lead with 3:29 to play, setting up the thrilling final minutes.
Central Michigan at Northern Illinois (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET)
Ball State at Toledo (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET)
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics/MRO Edit)