Senior Travon Baker (Detroit, Mich./Detroit Consortium) scored a career-high 25 points, including 13 in the final three minutes, as the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball team defeated Ohio, 80-69, on Wednesday night in the Mid-American Conference opener at the NIU Convocation Center.
Sophomore Marin Maric (Split, Croatia/La Lumiere School) tied a career-high with 22 points and 14 rebounds as he posted his fifth double-double of the season in a contest that featured 10 ties and 18 lead changes.
The win improved the Huskies to 12-2 on the season and gave NIU its 12th consecutive home win dating back to last season, setting a new school record.
Junior Aaric Armstead (Chicago, Ill./La Jolla Prep) scored 14 points and added nine rebounds while freshman Laytwan Porter (Rockford, Ill./Auburn) set a new career-high with 13 points and grabbed a career-best eight rebounds.
“It was a typical MAC game,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery. “Tough defense, efficient offense. Ohio is a very well-coached team; you just have to find a way to get multiple stops, score some baskets and survive. I thought our freshmen really got a feel for what it is like to play in a conference game.
“I thought both teams were locked in from beginning to end. We were efficient at the free-throw line and shooting threes, we had more assists than turnovers; our guys were very focused and that is why we came away with the win.”
A triple by Treg Setty gave Ohio a one-point lead, 53-52, just before the midway point of the season half but Armstead answered with the next three to push the Huskies back in front, 55-53.
After Ohio split a pair of free throws, Maric scored the next six to push the NIU lead to seven, 61-54, with just over six minutes to play.
The Bobcats climbed back within six, 65-60, with 3:53 left before Baker took over, scoring NIU’s next 13 points. The senior from Detroit knocked down a triple with just over two minutes left to push the lead to eight and, after an old-fashioned three-point play from the Bobcats, scored the next six in the game to give NIU a 74-63 lead in the final minute, propelling the Huskies to the win.
NIU held Ohio to just 27.6 percent (8-of-29) shooting from the field in the second half; the Huskies shot 45.5 percent (10-of-22) after the break, and also went 20-of-24 (83.3 percent) from the free-throw line.
Jaaron Simmons scored 19 points to lead the way for Ohio; Kenny Kaminski and Treg Setty each added 15 for the Bobcats.