Sophomore Laytwan Porter scored a team-high 12 points, senior Marin Maric added 11 and sophomore Levi Bradley chipped in 10 points as the Huskies moved to 3-0 on the season.
"It was one of the ugliest games I have been a part of in a while," said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. "If you like defense, a lot of fouls and too many turnovers, this was the game to be at. Credit our guys, we found a way to win the game. We had a lot of guys in foul trouble but we found a way to score more points (than Idaho)."
NIU held Idaho (1-1) to . . .
The Huskies and Vandals were even at 21 at the intermission and Idaho took a one-point lead, 27-26, in the first two minutes of the second half before the Huskies surged in front.
A triple from Brayon Blake trimmed the NIU advantage to 45-38 with just under eight minutes left, but that was as close as the Vandals would get as the Huskies shot 58.8 percent (10-of-17) from the field in the second half, and 79.2 percent (19-of-24) from the free-throw line, to prevent Idaho from making a run to get back in the contest.
Highsmith finished with nine points, including 7-of-8 from the charity stripe, sophomore Jaylen Key added six points and a team-high six rebounds.
Both teams struggled offensively in the first half as NIU was just 7-of-26 (26.9 percent) from the field in the opening 20 minutes while Idaho was just 7-of-28 (25 percent).
The Huskies led by as much as five in the opening stanza but Idaho came back to take a three-point lead, 20-17, with just under three minutes to play before halftime. Freshman Noah McCarty, seeing his first collegiate action after missing the first two games due to injury, made a pair of free throws to cut into the Vandal lead and Bradley closed the half with a jumper to pull the Huskies even at the break.
Blake led all scorers with 17 points for Idaho, he just missed a double-double with nine rebounds, Victor Sanders added 14 points for the Vandals.
NIU will hit the road for the first time on Saturday, Nov. 19, when the Huskies travel west to meet Cal State Northridge. Game time against the Matadors in the Golden State is scheduled for 10 p.m. CT.