Michael Benson: November 2011 Archives

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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The Huskies had much to be thankful for during the Thanksgiving weekend, as football clinched the MAC West title for the second-straight season and volleyball earned an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Football: The Huskies locked up the MAC West championship Friday at Huskie Stadium with a tough 18-12 win against Eastern Michigan. With the offense struggling, the defense stepped up to the occasion with four sacks of EMU QB Alex Gillett, while limiting the Eagles to 280 yards of total offense. Chandler Harnish gave the Huskies the winning points with a 68-yard scamper late in the third quarter.

Volleyball: Northern Illinois closed out their regular season Saturday afternoon with a commanding 3-0 sweep of the Marquette Golden Eagles. NIU held sizable advantages in hitting percentage (.315-.116), blocks (9-1) and kills (41-34) in the victory, which was their second of the season against MU and fourth against Big East opponents. On Sunday, the team learned they would earn a spot in the 64-team NCAA Tournament, where they will face Miami (Fla.) in the first round.

Men's Basketball: Despite shooting over 50 percent from the field in the second half, Northern Illinois was unable to come away with a win Saturday as they fell to Boise State, 71-57, in Taco Bell Arena. Abdel Nader led NIU with 16 points in the game, while Tony Nixon contributed 11 points in the losing effort. The Huskies held a 33-29 rebounding advantage to the Broncos, but also committed 21 turnovers.

Women's Basketball: The Huskies dropped two games against Missouri Valley Conference foes during the week to drop to 2-3 on the young season. The week started with a 50-45 loss to the Bradley Braves, despite Amanda Corral's three treys and seven rebounds. The struggles continued Saturday afternoon with an 81-62 defeat against Illinois State. Ashley Sneed led NIU with 14 points, but ISU's 52.9 field goal percentage was too much to overcome.

Wrestling: Northern Illinois returned to dual action Saturday in Bloomington, Ind., where they went 2-1 at the 2011 Hoosier Duals. The Huskies began the day with a 22-14 victory against Campbell and a 25-7 thrashing of SIU-Edwardsville. However, they would drop their final match of the day against nationally-ranked Indiana, 22-12. Individually, Nick Smith, Tyler Loethen and Brad Dieckhaus won all three of their matches on the day.

With November ending and December beginning, the Huskies will have a big week of competition. The headliners are both Friday, as Football plays Ohio for the MAC Championship at Detroit's Ford Field and volleyball takes on the Miami Hurricanes in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. Meanwhile, men's basketball plays at Utah Valley Monday and hosts Nebraska-Omaha Saturday, women's basketball takes on Southern Illinois Tuesday, and wrestling hosts Purdue in the annual Showcase Meet.

NICK SMITH BREAKS INTO TOP 20 AT 125

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Nick Smith.jpg

Sophomore Nick Smith is continuing his ascent in the national rankings by moving up to No. 20 nationally at the 125 weight class, according to WrestlingReport.com's most recent poll. Smith, who is 5-1 on the season (the only loss coming to ninth-ranked Levi Mele of Northwestern), moved up from No. 25 two weeks ago and from No. 29 in the preseason rankings.

Two other Huskies are also placed in the Top 30 of their classes. At 184, senior Brad Dieckhaus sits at No. 26, while Rob Jillard is No. 29 in 133.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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This past week was one characterized by big games for NIU Athletics. Football took a step closer to their second-straight MAC title, volleyball tried to take home the MAC Tournament championship and men's soccer advanced to the Round of 32 in the NCAA College Cup.

Football: Northern Illinois trailed by as many as 17 points against the archrival Ball State Cardinals, but an explosive offense and an effective two minute drill helped lift the Huskies to a 41-38 victory over BSU. In the game, Chandler Hanrish set a school record with 519 yards of total offense, while Mathew Sims' two field goals late in the game helped NIU tie then win the Battle for the Bronze Stalk.

Volleyball: For the second straight season, the Huskies came up just short in their quest for the MAC Tournament championship, NIU swept Bowling Green, 3-0, on Friday to advance to the semifinals. There, they took down Ball State, 3-1, to set up a showdown with Central Michigan Sunday afternoon. Yet, it was not meant to be for NIU. After trailing, 2-0, the Huskies stormed back to tie the match a two sets apiece, but the Chippewas would take the decisive fifth set by a 15-11 margin to win the tournament, 3-2.

Men's Basketball: Northern Illinois' struggles continued on the hardwood this week, as the team went 0-3 with two close losses at home and one on the road at Iowa. Monday, NIU nearly pulled off an amazing comeback in the final minutes against Milwaukee, but it was the Panthers who emerged with a 59-57 win. The Huskies then traveled to Iowa City, Iowa, Thursday, where they ran into a hot-shooting Hawkeye team, falling 88-55. The team completed their week at home against Eastern Illinois with a 67-55 loss to the Panthers.

Women's Basketball: The Huskies went two-for-two in DeKalb this week with two exciting wins in the Convocation Center. On Wednesday, NIU went to double overtime against Western Illinois before taking a 91-84 decision against the Leathernecks. In the game, six Huskies scored in double figures. Northern followed that up with an impressive 58-52 win against the Temple Owls, a team that was nationally-ranked a season ago.

Men's Soccer: Northern Illinois' season came to a close this past week in the NCAA College Cup, as the team advanced to the Round of 32 before bowing out. The Huskies opened up their tournament with a bang Thursday with a 3-0 win against Western Illinois in the tournament's opening round. NIU's defense played a major factor in the game, allowing the Leathernecks only one shot on goal the whole 90 minutes. That run, however, came to an abrupt halt on Sunday, as the Creighton Bluejays used their nationally-ranked defensive unit to stop the Huskies, 3-0.

The Huskies' schedule for Thanksgiving week includes a trio of games sandwiched around Turkey Day. On Wednesday, the women's basketball team will welcome Bradley to the Convo for a Thanksgiving Eve tilt at 7 p.m. Then on Friday, football will try to clinch the MAC West championship and a spot in the Marathon MAC Championship game at 10 a.m. when they face the Eagles of Eastern Michigan. The Huskies' Thanksgiving homestand wraps up Saturday afternoon when volleyball takes on BIG EAST power Marquette at 4 p.m. inside Victor E. Court. Additionally, wrestling travels to Bloomington, Ind., for the Hoosier Duals and basketball heads west for a Saturday night game against Boise State.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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It was a monumental week for Northern Illinois athletics, as the men's soccer team won the MAC Tournament championship - earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament in the process - and the volleyball team won the MAC West Division and regular season titles.

Football: The Huskie offense kept up their offensive momentum Tuesday against Bowling Green with a 45-14 thrashing of the Falcons. Chandler Harnish led the NIU attack with 294 yards passing and 151 on the ground, while the entire offense accumulated 623 total yards on the BGSU defense. On the other side of the line, the Huskie defense shut out the Falcon offense in the second half, limiting them to a measly 90 yards in the last 30 minutes of the game.

Volleyball: Northern Illinois went 2-0 during the week to clinch the 2011 MAC regular season championship and the top seed in this week's MAC Tournament. On Thursday, the team traveled to Kalamazoo, Mich., where they dispatched the Western Michigan Broncos, 3-1, to wrap up the MAC title. The Huskies extended their winning streak to 13 matches Saturday with a hard-fought 3-2 win against Bowling Green.

Men's Basketball: NIU opened their regular season Friday night in West Lafayette, Ind., where they fell to the Purdue Boilermakers, 96-34, in the rededication of Mackey Arena. Tim Toler paced the Huskie offense with 11 points on the night, while Freshman wing Abdel Nader added nine points and freshman forward Kevin Gray grabbed a game-high seven rebounds.

Women's Basketball: The Huskies dropped two games during the week to open their 2011-12 season. Tuesday, the team lost in an exhibition game against Indiana Wesleyan, 61-52, as NIU struggled to find any offense. They followed that up Sunday by dropping a 73-42 decision in Chicago against the Ramblers of Loyola. Ashley Sneed led NIU with a career-high 12 points on the day.

Men's Soccer: Northern Illinois brought home the MAC Tournament championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament over the weekend with a pair of wins in Akron, Ohio. In the semifinals Friday, the Huskies used a Gael Rivera second half goal to get past Buffalo, 1-0, meaning they would face fourth-seeded Western Michigan, who upset top-seed Akron on penalty kicks earlier in the day. Sunday's title match also came down to the wire, but Sean Totsch found the back of the WMU net with 6:40 left in regulation to win, 1-0. NIU's NCAA Tournament opponent will be determined Monday afternoon on NCAA.com.

Wrestling: Northern Illinois put two wrestlers on the podium Saturday at the Michigan State Open, as Nick Smith and Rob Jillard both took top four finishes in East Lansing, Mich. Smith, who was competing less than two hours from his hometown of Ida, Mich., advanced all the way to the finals after winning three matches at 125. However, he would fall in the championship to Northwestern's Levi Mele. Jillard finished fourth at 133 after making it to the semifinals with two dominating wins.

Cross Country: The NIU cross country team closed out their 2011 season Saturday when they hosted the 2011 NCAA Midwest Regional. The team finished 28th behind Courtney Oldenburg's time of 23:21.16 on the 6K NIU North 40 to finish 121st. Further behind the junior was freshman Jamie Burr, who posted a season-best second place showing among Huskie runners with a time of 24:25.02 to take 164th overall.

Northern will have at least one team competing every day this week, including a host of games in DeKalb. Football highlights the week with a Tuesday night showdown against Ball State at Huskie Stadium in the Battle for the Bronze stalk. In addition, men's and women's basketball each have a pair of home games, including a doubleheader Sunday, while men's soccer will learn their opponent for Thursday's first round Monday afternoon. The top-seeded women's volleyball team will head east to Geneva, Ohio, to compete in the MAC Tournament.

HUSKIE WRESTLERS CLIMB IN RANKINGS

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After going 1-1 over the weekend, a trio of Huskie wrestlers are ranked among the nation's best in the most recent WrestlingReport.com rankings.

Sophomore Nick Smith moved up one spot to No. 25 at the 125-pound weight class. The Ida, Mich., native won both of his matches over the weekend by major decision, beating North Central's Brayan Gonzalez, 13-4, and Stanford's Matt Sencenbaugh, 20-9. Meanwhile, Rob Jillard dropped three spots after losing both of his matches Sunday. Despite not wrestling Sunday, Brad Dieckhaus broke into the top 30 at 184 at No. 29.

Northern Illinois returns to action this Saturday, when they travel to East Lansing, Mich., for the Michigan State Open.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

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With the move into November, Northern Illinois also began the transition to its winter sports schedule with men's basketball and wrestling opening their schedules and football, men's soccer and volleyball entering the home stretch of their respective slates.

Football: It was a wild game in Toledo's Glass Bowl between NIU and the Rockets, but it was the Huskies who emerged victorious by a 63-60 score. Trailing by four late in the fourth quarter, Huskie QB Chandler Harnish found Perez Ashford in the back corner of the endzone with 19 seconds left to give NIU the win, a share of the MAC West lead and bowl eligibility. Among the standout performances were Harnish's career-high six touchdown passes - three of which went to Nathan Palmer - and Tommylee Lewis' two kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Volleyball: Northern Illinois earned its 22nd and 23rd wins of the season and extended their current winning streak to 11 over the weekend at Victor E. Court with victories over MAC West rivals Toledo and Ball State. On Friday, the Huskies used a .429-.256 hitting percentage advantage and nine aces to defeat the Rockets, 3-0. NIU earned a critical 3-0 win Saturday night to push themselves into a tie for first place with Western Michigan.

Men's Basketball: The young Huskies squad showed signs of promise during Friday's exhibition against Carthage College, but it was the Red Men's 13 three-pointers that doomed NIU in Carthage's 74-70 overtime win at the Convocation Center. Abdel Naber put up a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Tim Toler scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the loss.

Men's Soccer: Northern Illinois wrapped up their 2011 regular season schedule by splitting a pair of road matches. The Huskies outshot Milwaukee Wednesday, 21-10, but were unable to fin the back of the net in a 1-0 non-conference loss, ceding control of the Lewang Cup. Northern would return to their winning ways on Saturday, though, with a crucial 2-1 win against the Hartwick Hawks. The victory gave NIU the No. 2 seed in this weekend's MAC Tournament in Akron.

Wrestling: The Huskies opened their 2011-12 regular season with a split in the triangular with North Central and No. 21 Stanford. After a sluggish start, NIU posted four straight wins to take a 30-15 decision against the North Central Cardinals. Later, Northern dropped a tough one to the nationally-ranked Cardinal, 20-13, after leading 13-7 through six matches.

NIU enters the thick of November with a busy week coming up. On Tuesday, the football team travels to Bowling Green to take on the Falcons and women's basketball takes on Indiana Wesleyan in the Convocation Center in exhibition action. In addition, volleyball closes out their regular season with two big road matches at Western Michigan and Bowling Green, men's soccer heads to the MAC Tournament, wrestling competes in the Michigan State Open, and both basketball teams open their regular seasons on the road (men at Purdue; women at Loyola).
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