DeKALB – Northern Illinois' defense once again came through when the Huskies' offense seemed to struggle.
NIU didn't allow a field goal for a stretch of more than 11 minutes in the second half, allowing the Huskies to pull away from Ball State and end the regular season with a 70-56 win.
NIU (14-16, 8-10 MAC) will host Bowling Green as the No. 7 seed in the first round of the MAC Tournament on Monday at 7 p.m. It's the first time NIU has hosted a MAC Tournament game since 2003.
NIU got off to a slow start with a handful of early turnovers. Ball State (5-24, 2-16) took advantage and built a seven-point midway through the first half.
Montgomery brought Jordan Threloff back in the game midway through the first half after the junior center had picked up two early fouls and the former DeKalb star would spark a 13-4 run that saw the Huskies get out in transition for a couple easy buckets.
Armstead's driving layup on the baseline, following an offensive rebound from Antone Christian gave NIU a 22-20 lead and the Huskies would lead by one at the half.
Neither team was very efficient on offense in the first half as the teams combined for 18 first-half turnovers and shot just 3 of 18 from beyond the arc.
Ball State's offensive issues were only exacerbated in the second half as the Cardinals went through a five-minute stretch without scoring a point. NIU forced 19 turnovers on the night.
A 23-8 run in the middle of the second half would seal the deal for NIU as the Huskies got out in transition and find some open looks, including two 3-pointers from JJ Cravatta off the bench.
Travon Baker got a steal off a Ball State inbounds pass and found a cutting Aaron Armstead for a driving layup to give NIU a 57-41 lead and the Huskies led comfortably the rest of the way.