Highsmith, a freshman, was 9 of 11 from the field, including three 3-pointers. He also made all six of his free throws and did not have a turnover.
The Huskies (5-5) had fallen behind when UC Riverside's (4-7) Nick Gruninger opened the game with a five-point flurry. Gruninger wasn't heard from again until well after halftime and the cold-shooting Highlanders, 35.7 percent, trailed by 10 at halftime.
Gruninger scored 12 of his season-high 18 points in the second half. Chris Harriel also scored a season-high 18 and his 3-pointer brought the Highlanders to within 62-59 with 1:25 to play. Highsmith hit a 3 on the other end, and Northern Illinois made 17 of 18 free throws in the final 10 minutes.