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Northern Illinois Huskies vs Toledo Rockets men's basketball recap: NIU squeaks by Toledo 71-66 to take control of the MAC West

NIU wins 71-66 in it's first road test in MAC play. Travon Baker continues streak of scoring 20+ points for the third straight while Nathan Boothe scores 30 in the loss.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

If Northern Illinois didn't prove they were for real ripping off two home wins against talented teams like Ohio and Eastern Michigan, tonight's road win at Toledo will be sure to sway those remaining on the list of NIU doubters to start to believe that this Huskie team is the real deal. Behind yet another 20+ point game from Travon Baker and another double-double for Marin Maric, the Huskies held on to beat Toledo and stay undefeated in MAC play.

The first half was a mix of runs for both schools as Northern faced it's first true road test in MAC play. NIU began the game on a 12-5 opening run with contributions from two common outstanding players this season - Maric and Baker. Baker hit two early three pointers and a layup and Maric made a jumper and layup to contribute 10 of the first 12 for the Huskies.

The Rockets then went on a 17-10 run of their own led by Nathan Boothe and Jonathan Williams who had 15 of 17 points to bring the game to a deadlock at 22. The four stars mentioned above for both schools made 14 of the last 22 points of the half that had the Huskies up 34-32 at the break.

The Rockets came out strong in the second half and used the home crowd to spark a quick 6-0 run to take a 38-34 lead over the Huskies. Maric then led a charge for Northern to have a 7-0 run of their own to take a 41-38 lead with 16 minutes left.

The next six minutes were back and forth for both schools with Toledo up 47-46 until Boothe made a three and Jordan Lauf made two free throws to push the lead to five. The key point came when Toledo was up 55-51 and Baker made back-to-back three pointers for the Huskies to turn a four-point deficit into a two-point lead. At the three minute mark the game was tied at 59. The Huskies would not miss a shot or free throw for the rest of the game, making 4 field goals and 4 free throws to close out the Rockets.

Marshawn Wilson and Chuks Iroegbu played key roles for NIU, contributing 19 points on 8-9 shooting. Iroegbu made a layup and two clutch free throws within the last few minutes to put the game out of reach. For Toledo, Boothe and Williams combined for 51 of their 66 points. Unfortunately. they did not get any contributions from anyone else on the team. The rest of the Rockets went 4 of 20 from the field to put Toledo in a big hole. NIU's bench outscored Toledo's 24-8 which seemed to be the difference in this game.

The Rockets made 21-27 free throws while the Huskies made 9-11 on the night. Baker had five steals while his teammate Jaylen Key contributed three steals. Up next for Toledo is a nationally televised game against Akron on Friday, the leader in our power rankings. The Huskies take on the Western Michigan Broncos who have yet to win in the MAC this season.

Game Leaders

Player Toledo Northern Illinois
Points N. Boothe (30) T. Baker (23)
Rebounds N. Boothe (9) M. Maric (12)
Assists Two tied (3) Three tied (3)
Blocks J. Lauf (1) Two tied (1)
Steals J. Lauf (2) T. Baker (5)