Jan. 13, 2010
Postgame Quotes (Patton/Hawkins/NIU Players
DEKALB, Ill. - Sophomore guard Mike DiNunno scored a season-best 21 points, and dished out a career-high 10 assists for his first career double-double, helping lift the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (6-8, 2-0 MAC) to a physical 87-77 victory over Mid-American opponent Western Michigan (9-6, 1-1), Wednesday night at the Convocation Center.
NIU has now won four in a row and five out of its last six contests. The winning streak marks the longest in head coach Ricardo Patton's career at NIU, and is the team's first four-game win streak since the 2005-06 season. NIU has now won two-straight over Western Michigan.
With the win, the Huskies opened conference play with back-to-back wins for the first time since rejoining the league prior to the 1997-98 season. The last time NIU started out 2-0 in MAC play was during the 1980-81 campaign.
Down by as many as 14 in the opening frame, Darion "Jake" Anderson sparked an 11-5 run that sent both teams to the locker room tied 41-41 at the half. Trailing by six at the 3:00 mark, the junior guard hit an open three-pointer to pull the Huskies within three. DiNunno, who hit a career-high six three-pointers in the game, followed with his fourth trey of the night to tie the game 36-36.
WMU countered with five quick points, but NIU's Lee Fisher drove hard to the net for two, before DiNunno hit his fifth three of the night to close out the half.
The Broncos jumped out to a quick five-point lead to open the second half, but back-to-back threes by DiNunno and junior guard Xavier Silas put the Huskies up by one at the 15:20 mark. The Broncos would only re-gain the lead once more, before the Huskies pulled away after another trey from Silas.
NIU drained a season high 60 percent of their tries from three-point range as DiNunno, Silas, Anderson, junior center Sean Kowal, and freshman Tony Nixon combined for 12 three-pointers in 19 attempts. Kowal's trey was his first of his career. Kowal, in his second season, also passed the 400-point plateau at NIU during the game.
Joining DiNunno in the double-digit scoring column was Kowal, who tied his season best with 18 points, Silas (15) and Anderson (12). Kowal led all rebounders with seven caroms, to help the Huskies record a 42-34 advantage on the boards.
Patton's starting line-up of DiNunno, Anderson, Silas, Fisher, and Kowal improved to 5-1, and the Huskies have yet to lose in 2010, going 4-0 in the month of January.
NIU returns to the Convocation Center Saturday, Jan. 16 to host MAC foe Eastern Michigan at 1 p.m.