Box Score |
DeKalb, Ill. - Northern Illinois senior guard Mike McKinney was not going to let the Huskies lose.
McKinney tallied a team-season and career-high 28 points, including the game-winning lay-up with six seconds remaining as the Huskies snapped a nine-game losing streak and came-from-behind for the 70-68 victory over Western Michigan in the Mid-American Conference opener at the NIU Convocation Center on Saturday afternoon.
McKinney, whose previous career-best was 22 points, set a personal benchmark as well, converting 4-of-5 from three-point range. The Evanston, Ill., native added seven rebounds, three steals and three assists on the afternoon.
"Mike [McKinney] has been playing more and more consistently and more focused every day," NIU head coach Rob Judson said. "It was fun to watch him operate out there. He made good decisions."
As a team, NIU shot 54.5% (12-for-22) from beyond the arc, knocking down a team-season high 12 treys. Junior forward Shaun Logan (Eldridge, Iowa) connected on a season-high three three-pointers and finished with 14 points and six rebounds, while teammate Zach Pancratz (Schaumburg, Ill.) added 12 points and a pair of treys.
"What hurt us today was our lack of defense on ball screens," Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins said. "We didn't handle ball screens well. NIU, coming into today, was not a good three-point shooting team. Logan was 2-of-16 for the season and he hits three today. McKinney is a 34 percent three-point shooter and he hits 4-of-5.
"That was the difference."
With the victory, NIU improves to 4-9 overall and 1-0 in MAC play, while the visiting Broncos drop to 5-9 on the campaign and 0-1 in conference action.
Western Michigan was paced offensively by junior center Joe Reitz who answered McKinney with a double-double of 28 points and 10 rebounds on 10-for-13 shooting. Broncos' guard Derek Fracalossi came off the bench and scored 10 points for WMU.
WMU, who had controlled the lead for a majority of the contest, built a 64-58 advantage over the Huskies with 4:16 remaining in the contest.
NIU quickly gathered themselves together and went on a 7-0 run, led by four points from Pancratz, to take a 65-64 lead, their first of the game, with 1:58 left in the contest.
Fracalossi answered with a backdoor lay-up on the ensuing possession to give the Broncos a 66-65 lead. Following a Paradise three-point miss, WMU extended its advantage to 67-65 as Reitz split a pair of free throws with 1:06 remaining.
The Huskies found the hot hand at the other end of the court as Paradise kicked the ball out to McKinney who drained his fourth trey of the night giving NIU back the lead at 68-67 with 47 ticks left.
WMU called a timeout and got the ball to sophomore point guard Michael Redell who drew a foul from NIU freshman forward Bristan Kelley (2 points) and went to the line. Redell knocked down the first charity shot to tie the game at 68, but missed the second free throw for the lead with 27 seconds left.
NIU drove the ball down the court and got the ball in the hands of McKinney. McKinney held the ball for a few seconds before driving to the basket for the hanging lay-up and the game-clinching bucket.
"It was just like you were a little kid back on the playground, where you are counting it down in your head," McKinney said. "Everyone is cleared out and you have to make the last shot."
Judson was glad that the Huskies began the 2007 year out right.
"This [win] was a real blessing for us today," Judson said. "I'm happy for our players who have persevered and stayed together through a tough period."
NIU is back in action on Tuesday night, as they travel to Ypsilanti, Michigan to battle Eastern Michigan at the EMU Convocation Center for a 6 p.m. (CST) tip-off.