Northern Illinois received a season-high 20 points Tuesday from guard Travon Baker in a 70-65 win against UIC at the UIC Pavilion.
The Huskies controlled the entire first half. They used an early 10-0 run to take a 12-4 lead. An 8-1 spurt a few minutes afterward gave Northern Illinois a double-digit advantage.
UIC (2-9) made a slight recovery after trailing 27-13 with six minutes left in the half. Freshman forward Dikembe Dixson scored eight straight UIC points, and the Flames went into halftime down 33-23.
Dixson, who finished with a career-high 28 points, scored 15 in the second half as UIC made a steady comeback. Along with help from sophomore center Tai Odiase and freshman guard Michael Kolawole, the Flames trimmed their deficit to 44-42 with 11:52 remaining.
Northern Illinois (10-2) responded with nine straight points, but a 6-0 spurt by UIC kept the Flames within five points. The Flames trailed 63-57 entering the final minute, and then Dixson’s three-point play on a mid-range jumper brought UIC within one possession.
The Huskies remained composed, though, making six straight free throws. A turnover by Odiase with 27 seconds left finished off the Flames’ chances of stealing a win.
With this loss, UIC is now 5-30 in non-conference, regular season games against Division I teams since 2013.
While Baker led Northern Illinois in scoring, three other Huskies players reached double figures. Sophomore center Marin Maric recorded his fourth double-double, all since Thanksgiving, with 11 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
Led by Dixson, the UIC frontcourt put up possibly its best collective performance of the season. Dixson dominated offensively with 8-of-16 shooting from the field. He also made 11-of-16 at the foul line.
The 6-foot-7 freshman is now in line for his fourth Horizon League Freshman of the Week award.
Odiase, with 13 points and three blocks, had his best game since Nov. 17 against Western Illinois. Senior forward Jake Wiegand scored 11 points to reach double figures for the first time this month.
UIC moves on to Horizon League competition Saturday, when it travels to conference title favorite Valparaiso. The Flames have not yet defeated a Division I opponent this season.