Junior guard Antino Jackson celebrated his 21st birthday with the come-from-behind win while leading the Zips' scoring efforts with 22 points.
Jackson finished . . .
Senior center Isaiah Johnson followed with 21 points and seven rebounds, while junior Noah Robotham rounded out the Zips double-digit scoring with 10 points. Robotham also made a pair of crucial free throws in the final seconds.
Senior Kwan Cheatham, Jr. led the Zip's efforts on the glass, pulling down 11 rebounds while chipping in nine points.
Marin Maric led NIU with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Aaric Armstead knocked down 13 points and Laytwan Porter added 10.
With the win, Akron improved to 19-3 overall and 9-0 in league play while extending its winning streak to 12 consecutive games.
For the game, the Zips shot 26-of-57 (.456) from the field, including an 11-of-28 (.393) effort from deep. Akron made 13-of-20 free throws and won the turnover battle 16-9 with a season-high 11 steals.
NIU finished the game shooting 28-of-53 (.528) from the floor, 8-of-12 (.667) from deep, and 9-of-13 (.692) from the charity stripe. The Huskies won the battle of the boards 34-28, but Akron held an 18-15 the second-half advantage on the glass.
In the first half, NIU (13-9, 5-4) capitalized on a slow start by the Zips. Akron went 1-of-7 from the field in the opening five minutes of the game as the Huskies built an 8-2 advantage.
After the under-16 media break, Cheatham got the Zips going by burying three consecutive long distance shots as the Zips narrowed the Huskies lead to 15-11 with 11:22 left in the half. Again, Akron used a 3-of-4 effort from the field between media breaks, but still trailed the Huskies, 21-17 at the 7:36 mark.
After the third media timeout, the Huskies pushed the lead to 10 points behind a pair of 3-pointers from Armstead, 27-17. The Zips answered with a Robotham 3-pointer and an Emmanuel Olojakpoke free throw, but NIU made a series of runs to close out the half with a 14-point advantage, 47-33.
Akron finished the first half shooting 44.0 percent from the field (11-of-25) and 50.0 percent from beyond the 3-point arc (7-of-14), but the Huskies, a team that averages 4.5 three-pointers a game, drilled five first-half triples while shooting 71.4 percent from deep.
NIU also controlled the paint, scoring 24 points in the key as Maric led all scorers with 18 points mixed with Armstead's 11 points.
In the second half, NIU established a 15-point, 52-37 advantage by the 17:27 mark. However, the Zips immediately cut the deficit to seven points on a Johnson layup and a pair of Jackson triples.
Akron had two more opportunities to get the game even closer before a pair of scores from NIU pushed the lead back to 12 points, 59-47.
During the final 11:26, Akron tightened up on defense, causing six of NIU's 12 second-half turnovers with five steals while forcing the Huskies into tough shots. The defensive stance generated a 13-2 run by the Zips, starting in the post with Johnson.
Freshman Daniel Utomi split a par of free throws and came up with a steal as Cheatham moved the ball back into Utomi's hands for a triple. Junior Jimond Ivey added a lay-in, also assisted by Cheatham, and the Zips threw the ball back into the post to Johnson after another stop. Jackson finished the run with a 3-pointer, and the Zips trailed by one-point with 5:56 remaining in the game, 61-60.
The two teams traded buckets as Johnson did all the heavy lifting for the Zips, scoring six straight points in the paint and lifting Akron to its first lead of the game, 66-65. After an Ivey steal, Johnson drained two free throws to put the Zips up three points. On the ensuing possession, Ivey came up with another big steal and hit Robotham for a jumper, pushing the Akron lead to 70-65 with 2:45 left to play.
The Huskies buried three free throws to make it a two point game, but Jackson answered with a pair from the charity stripe to keep it a two-possession game with 23 seconds left. Down four points, 72-68, NIU ran the ball up the floor and connected with a layup while being fouled.
The Huskies failed to make it a one-point game and sent Robotham to the line with a two-point deficit. Robotham made both free throws, 74-70, and NIU answered with a 3-pointer.
Down 74-73 with six seconds remaining, NIU fouled Jackson on the inbounds pass. Jackson delivered the final blow by draining both free throws.
Akron will be back in action on Saturday,at Noon against East Division rival Ohio (13-6, 5-3) in Athens. Northern Illinois will host Eastern Michigan Saturday (4:30 p.m. ET).