NIU (7-1) was outrebounded for the first time this season, 38-34, and shot just 34.9 percent (22-of-63) from the field while Missouri shot 53.8 percent (28-of-52) in the contest.
“It was a very competitive game,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “I liked the tempo more in the first half where it was 26-27. We didn’t get off to the best start, but credit Missouri’s defense, I thought they came out and punched us in the face. I give our guys credit; they responded to be down just one at halftime.
“I thought both teams played hard, Missouri just made a few more plays, unfortunately for us. We had four guys in double figures. We battled on the glass -- 17 offensive rebounds is impressive because sometimes we were small out there, but Missouri had the answer.”
Missouri (4-3) raced out a 12-0 lead in the opening four minutes of the contest to force an early NIU timeout. The Huskies answered with the next four as Maric and freshman Levi Bradley got the NIU offense started. The Huskie defense held Missouri scoreless for over four minutes until a basket by K.J. Walton pushed the Tiger lead back to double figures, 14-4, with 11:26 to play in the opening half.
The Tigers led by nine, 20-11, until a corner triple by Wilson and a pair of free throws from Maric trimmed the Missouri advantage to just four, 20-16, with just over four minutes to play in the half.
After a bucket by the Tigers, Wilson canned another corner triple to spark a personal 8-0 run that included another trifecta and a pair of free throws to give the Huskies their first lead of the night, 24-22, with 1:47 to play before the break.
Wilson finished the night 5-of-12 from the floor, including 4-of-9 from three, and a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Missouri answered with the next five before a layup from Baker cut the Tiger lead to just one, 27-26, at the intermission.
Wilson led all scorers with 13 points in the opening 20 minutes; Terrence Phillips paced Missouri with seven. The Huskies trailed by one despite shooting just 27.6 percent (8-of-29), thanks in part to forcing 11 first half Missouri turnovers.
Missouri took a four-point lead, 39-35, five minute into the season half until a triple from Baker cut the lead to just one. After a basket by the Tigers, another triple from Baker evened the contest, 41-41, with 13:23 left.
The Tigers led by four, 47-43, until an old-fashioned three-point play from Maric cut the lead to one just past the midway point of the half
Missouri then used a 13-4 burst to push its lead to 10 before four-straight free throws for the Huskies, two by Wilson and a pair from Baker, cut the lead back to a half-dozen, 60-54, with 6:18 to play.
NIU went 20-of-24 (83.3 percent) from the free-throw line in the contest.
A triple from Wilson trimmed the Missouri lead to just five, 62-57, but the Tigers responded with the next six, capped by a triple from Namon Wright, as Missouri pushed its lead to 11 with just over three minutes to play.
NIU clawed back within five, 72-67, after a put-back from senior Chuks Iroegbu, a free throw by Baker and a pair from the line by Wilson, with 1:16 left, but Missouri answered with a three-point play from Kevin Puryear to end hopes of a Huskie comeback.
Puryear led Missouri with 17 points, Phillips added 13 and Jakeenan Gant added 11 for the Tigers.
Following a break for finals, the Huskies will return to action on Wednesday, Dec. 16, as they travel to Columbus, Ohio, to meet Ohio State. Game time against the Buckeyes is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)