ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Northwestern (Minn.) scored the biggest win so far this season as the Eagles handed ninth-ranked Wheaton College (Ill.) its first loss of the year 67-62.

Down by nine at the beginning of the second half, NWC chipped away at the Thunder margin before re-taking the lead and ultimately making free throws to ensure the victory.

Neither team was able to establish much of a lead in the first half. Northwestern led by one and two points in the first sixth minutes before Wheaton took a slim margin of its own three minutes later. The Thunder's 24-19 advantage with 4:14 left in the period was the widest lead for either team until Nate Serenius hit a jump shot with six seconds to go to send Wheaton into halftime with a six-point cushion at 30-24. The Thunder's perimeter defense forced NWC into 12 first-half turnovers, but the Eagles shot 47 percent from the field to Wheaton's 38 percent.

Peter Smith's 3-pointer 12 seconds into the second period gave the Thunder their biggest lead of the game at nine. Northwestern's Daniel Petkau started a comeback with a layup a minute later, and the Eagles were within a point when Michael Carney made a three at 36-35. Matt Watnemo's layup at 12:30 tied the score.

With the score knotted at 47, Petkau's and Tom Gisler's baskets gave the Eagles their largest margin of the night at five with 6:37 left to play. That lead lasted for two minutes until Wheaton came back for one more run, stealing a one-point advantage back. Gisler and Wade Chitwood, both of whom scored 10 second-half points for Northwestern, each made a pair of free throws and NWC entered the final two minutes of regulation with a 58-55 lead.

The Thunder came within a point on two more occasions, but Ellis Libby was a perfect 4-for-4 at the charity stripe in the final 24 seconds to give the Eagles a 67-62 win.

Northwestern committed just two mistakes in the second half and rode out the final 12 minutes of the game without a turnover while converting 12-of-13 free throw opportunities in the 40-minute contest. The Eagles made 24-of-51 (47.1 percent) of their attempts from the floor while making 7-of-15 (46.7 percent) 3-point attempts. Wheaton was held to 38 percent shooting for the game, going just 4-of-23 from long range.

Gisler finished 6-for-8 with 18 points to lead the Eagles, with Chitwood close behind at 16 points. Petkau four points and 16 of Northwestern's 38 rebounds. Libby finished with seven assists.

For Wheaton (9-1), Tyler Peters had 24 points, playing much of the second half with four fouls while still leading the Thunder with 33 minutes of court time. Nathan Haynes added 15 rebounds.