Freshman Marshawn Wilson added 16 points, but the . . .
“I thought it was a highly contested game,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “I thought Ohio State made some key baskets late and their defense obviously bothered us, when you shoot 26 percent. They are long, they are athletic, it wasn’t our best shooting night but you have to credit Ohio State.
“We had a few too many turnovers. With six minutes to go we were only down six, we had an opportunity to cut the lead but you have to shoot the ball well. Our guys competed, but they just had more weapons than us tonight and they made big shots.”
NIU (7-2) went 19-of-24 (79.2 percent) from the free-throw line in the contest, including 9-of-10 from Maric and 5-of-5 from Wilson.
Trailing by four early on, NIU used an 11-3 burst to take its first lead of the night, 14-10, with 11:50 to play in the opening half. The Huskies went 5-of-5 from the free-throw line during the run, Maric scored four, including the basket to put the Huskies in front, 11-10, and senior Travon Baker capped the burst with a triple from the wing as NIU went in front by four.
Baker finished with four points and a game-high five assists.
After a basket by junior Michael Orris gave the Huskies a 16-15 lead, Ohio State used a 9-2 spurt to take a 24-18 lead with just under seven minutes to play in the opening half.
The Huskies answered with six of the next seven, all from the free-throw line, to pull within one, 25-24. After free throw by Ohio State, a turnaround hook shot from Maric pulled the Huskies back even, 26-26, with 4:22 to play before the intermission.
Ohio State (5-5) pulled in front by four, but Wilson ended the first half with a pair of free throws to bring the Huskies within a pair, 33-31, at the intermission.
Maric led all scorers with 11 points in the first half; Trevor Thompson led Ohio State with eight.
NIU went 14-of-16 from the free-throw line in the opening 20 minutes while the Buckeyes went 12-of-18 from the charity stripe.
Ohio State led by four, 41-37, until a triple from Wilson cut the lead to just one with 14:37 to play. The Buckeyes split a pair of free throws and Maric converted a pair from the line for the Huskies to pull NIU even, 42-42, with just over 13 minutes left.
An old-fashioned three-point play and a triple from the wing pushed Ohio State in front by six, 50-44. The Buckeye lead reached eight until a trifecta from freshman Levi Bradley pulled NIU back within five, 54-49, with 7:13 left. Bradley finished with nine points on 3-of-4 shooting.
The Ohio State lead was seven after a triple from Wilson with 2:45 left, but JaQuan Lyle answered with a trifecta for the Buckeyes as the clock ticked under two minutes to end any hopes of a Huskie comeback.
Jae’Sean Tate scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Ohio State; Keita Bates-Diop also posted a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Thompson added 10 points and eight rebounds.
The Huskies will return to DeKalb on Saturday, Dec. 19, as they host Florida International in the first game of a doubleheader at the NIU Convocation Center. The contest will tipoff at 2 p.m., to be followed by the NIU women’s basketball team against Drake at approximately 4:30 p.m.
(Courtesy of NIU Athletics)