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Vegas 16: Northern Illinois vs. Santa Barbara basketball final: Huskies season comes to an end in Vegas

After 21 victories and their first postseason berth since 1996 the Huskies season finally came to a close Monday night. After leading by 11 at the half the Huskies fell to UC Santa Barbara 70-63.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

It was a magical season for the Huskies achieving the 4th most wins in school history at 21-13. Northern Illinois achieved its first postseason berth in 20 years as it was invited to the Las Vegas 16 Tournament which ended up being only eight teams. NIU fell 70-63.

The first 10 minutes of the game was back and forth as each team had 18 points at the end of it with multiple lead changes. The Huskies then used two three pointers by senior Travon Baker to begin to build their lead at 24-19. After Aaric Armstead made two free throws the Huskies lead 43-28 and it seemed like they were posed to go into the half with at least a double digit lead at the 2:44 mark. It didn't seem like much at the time but the Gauchos forced two turnovers and the Huskies missed their final two shots which closed the gap at halftime to 43-32.

The second half start was crucial for both teams as it was either going to turn into a blowout or a contested game. Baker started the second half off with a layup to push the lead to 13 but UC Santa Barbara scored the next nine points to cut the lead to 45-41. The Huskies withstood a lot of pressure from the Gauchos and  held the lead with seven minutes left. Gabe Vincent fired the dagger a three-pointer that closed the gap to 56-55. Vincent and Sam Beeler would score 10 of the next 15 points for the Gauchos to propel them to the victory over the Huskies. The duo combined for 36 points on 14 of 21 shooting and eight rebounds.

Marin Maric who was injured throughout the MAC tournament was a non-factor in this one with only one shot attempt and six made free throws. It was tough end to the career of Travon Baker's career as he graduates after a satisfying season with much improvement. The Huskies 2011 and 2012 season consisted of 10 wins total while 2013 and 2014 they reached double digits each year. They finally broke through this year with 21 wins and a great showing at home with 18-1 record.  The Huskies only home loss was to Buffalo in the middle of the season. The year had it's ups and downs but it was great to see the Huskies be relevant once again in both football and basketball. The Huskies return Maric, a sophomore, Aaric Armstead, a junior and their foursome of freshman Jaylen Key, Levi Bradley, Laytwan Porter and Marshawn Wilson. The future is bright in DeKalb and the Huskies look to compete in the MAC once again after another year of experience.