Senior Chuks Iroegbu added 14 points while junior Aaric Armstead added 12 points and six rebounds as the Huskies improved to 13-2 overall, 2-0 in the Mid-American Conference.
“I thought it was . . .
“With about 10 minutes to go in the game, we got out in transition and Travon Baker was unbelievable down the stretch. … I have been here five years, and we finally looked comfortable playing against their zone.”
NIU led by 10 at the intermission, 40-30, but Eastern Michigan (9-6, 1-1) opened the second half on a 17-7 run to pull even with just over 11 minutes to play.
CHIPPEWAS TAKE LEAD FOR GOOD
A pair of free throws from Raven Lee pushed the Eagles in front, 49-47, but the Huskies answered with a 14-3 run to take a 61-52 lead with just over seven minutes left.
Maric opened the run with a pair of free throws and Iroegbu split a pair to give NIU a one-point lead, 50-49. The missed free throw by the senior from Sacramento, Calif., was the one miss of the night at the line as the Huskies shot 95.5 percent (21-of-22) from the charity stripe.
Baker canned a triple and Iroegbu added a bucket at the rim, both assisted by freshman Laytwan Porter, before Eastern Michigan broke the string of eight-straight Huskie points with a triple from Brandon Nazione to cut the lead back to three, 55-52. The Huskies answered right back with trifectas from Baker and Armstead as NIU took the nine-point lead with 7:06 on the clock.
NIU and Eastern Michigan traded baskets into the final four minutes while a layup from James Thompson IV cut the NIU lead to eight, 69-61, with 3:30 to play.
EAGLE TIES NCAA MARK
Thompson led the Eagles with 23 points and eight rebounds. The 6-10 center connected on 8 of 9 in the contest, but the miss came after he tied an NCAA record for most consecutive made-field-goals (26). Raven Lee was the only other Eagle in double figures; he had 13 points.
Following the Thompson layup, Armstead was fouled shooting a three and the junior from Chicago calmly knocked in all three from the line to push the NIU advantage to 11.
The Huskie defense came up with a stop on the next possession and Baker put the game on ice with another triple with 2:38 to play, giving NIU a 75-61 lead.
NIU outrebounded Eastern Michigan 36-21 in the contest, including seven rebounds in just 13 minutes off the bench from freshman Levi Bradley. Both teams committed 18 turnovers in the contest but the Huskies turned Eastern Michigan’s 18 into 29 points, while the Huskies 18 turnovers became just 16 points for the Eagles.
NIU and Eastern Michigan went back-and-forth in the opening minutes, exchanging the lead 14 times in the opening 12 minutes of the contest.
Beginning with a bucket by Maric that gave the lead back to the Huskies, 20-19, NIU used a 10-2 burst to take a 28-21 lead. Baker knocked down a pair of triples in the run and Bradley made a pair of free throws as the Huskies took the seven-point lead.
Eastern Michigan trimmed the lead back to four, 31-27, with just over three minutes to play before the intermission.
NIU then finished the half with a 9-3 burst to take a 10-point lead into the half. Bradley and Maric opened the run with basket each and, after a Eastern Michigan triple, Iroegbu made a pair of free throws and then converted an old-fashioned three-point play with three seconds to play in the half to give the Huskies a 40-30 lead at the break.
NEXT: The Huskies will return to action on Tuesday night, Jan. 12, as they hit the road for the first time in conference play, traveling to Toledo, Ohio to meet the Rockets. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET. Eastern Michigan will host Buffalo Tuesday (7 p.m. ET).