The Broncos shot 52.9 percent (27-of-51) in the contest, including 59.1 percent (13-of-22) from behind the three-point arc.
“You have to give Western Michigan a lot of credit,” said NIU head coach Mark Montgomery.
“If you go on the road and shoot 60 percent from three, that’s tough to do with nobody on you. I thought they were tougher than us in the first half. I thought we had good shots in the first half, they just didn’t go in. We had some good ball movement, but they were just a step quicker than us tonight and that showed.”
Western Michigan out-rebounded NIU, 39-26, and converted 15 second chance points to just seven for NIU. Demetrius Ward led the Broncos with 18 points, Flenard Whitfield added 17 points and a game-high eight rebounds while Nate Hutcheson chipped in 15 points.
After an up-and-under layup by freshman forward Kevin Gray (Chicago, Ill./Brooks Academy) knotted the game at 10 with 10:29 to play in the first half, Western Michigan used an 8-2 burst to take a six-point lead with just over eight minutes to play in the opening half.
The Huskies pulled back within four, but a 7-0 surge for the Broncos pushed their lead to 25-14, forcing a NIU timeout.
Western Michigan’s lead reached 12 before back-to-back buckets by Nixon trimmed the Bronco lead back to eight. A basket by Whitfield closed the scoring in the first half and gave Western Michigan a 34-24 lead at the intermission.
Nixon led the Huskies with 10 points in the opening 20 minutes; Ward paced Western Michigan with 12 points. Western Michigan shot 50 percent (5-of-10) from behind the three-point arc in the first half while NIU was just 2-of-8 (25 percent) from three.
Freshman wing Abdel Nader (Skokie, Ill./Niles North) finished off a steal with a dunk to open the second half and senior forward Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) connected on a trifecta as the Huskies cut the Bronco lead to five, 34-29, in the opening 70 seconds of the half.
Storm finished with nine points.
Western Michigan quickly answered with five of its own to push the lead back to 10, 39-29.
An old-fashioned three-point play by Storm cut the lead to eight, but a 17-0 run by Western Michigan gave the Broncos a 63-38 lead with 9:46 left.
Northern Illinois will step out of conference for the final time on Saturday, Feb. 18, when the Huskies travel to face SIU Edwardsville in the Sears Bracketbusters. Tip time between the Huskies and Cougars is scheduled for 1 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s basketball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.