Feb. 22, 2006
DeKalb, IL - With the score tied at 67-apiece and less than a minute remaining, the Northern Illinois University men's basketball team needed something to boost them over the top against Ball State University on Wednesday night.
NIU senior guard Anthony Maestranzi provided exactly that, as the Bartlett, IL, native scored four points over the final 34 seconds to lift the Huskies to the 73-67 Mid-American Conference victory at the NIU Convocation Center, extending their winning streak to three games. The win helped keep NIU one-half game ahead of Western Michigan University in the MAC West race.
Maestranzi finished with nine points. NIU junior center James Hughes tied a career-high with 18 points, followed by sophomore guard Zach Pancratz (11 points, 3 three-pointers) and senior forward Todd Peterson (10 points).
"A win in the MAC is always good and certainly at home you want to hold your home court," NIU head coach Rob Judson said. "This team, a week ago, had a tough loss on Tuesday, showed a lot of character and resiliency in two wins on the road and coming home to play a hot Ball State team.
"It was a really good team victory tonight."
With the victory, NIU improves to 12-7 overall and 7-4 in MAC play, while the Cardinals fall to 7-11 on the campaign and 3-7 in conference action.
Ball State junior guard Julien `Skip' Mills led all scorers with 24 points, including 15 in the second half, while junior reserve Chris Ames added 12 points off the bench.
The second half proved to be a battle, as it featured seven ties and five lead changes, with the Cardinals taking a 65-64 advantage following a pair of free throws from Mills with 2:41 remaining in the game.
Peterson answered on the ensuing possession with a three-pointer, to put the Huskies ahead, 67-65 with 2:17 left in the contest. Mills, however, quickly drained a jumper with 1:48 left to even the score at 67.
Each team traded a possession, giving the ball back to NIU with 51 seconds left in the contest, and the Huskies called a 30-second timeout.
Maestranzi found himself with the ball, an open lane and drove to the basket for the go-ahead lay-up, giving the Huskies the 69-67 lead with 34 ticks remaining. The senior point guard got it done on the defensive end as well, as Maestranzi swiped the ball from BSU point guard Maurice Acker (9 points) on the Cardinals' next posession and was quickly fouled.
"Just attack and make a play," Maestranzi said of his thoughts before his go-ahead lay-up. "I was able to get by my guy, and my thoughts were to get to the basket and if someone stops you, to kick it out to the open guy. Fortunately I was able to get all the way to the basket."
Maestranzi drained both of his charity shots and Pancratz added two more to help NIU secure the victory.
NIU is back in action on Saturday afternoon (Feb. 4), as the Huskies battle Western Michigan for a 2:05 p.m. tip-off at the Convocation Center.
(For further information, please contact Matt Brendich) -NIU-