Feb. 28, 2009
Postgame Quotes in PDF Format
DeKalb, Ill. - Sean Smith had a standout second-half performance on Senior Day, and the Northern Illinois men's basketball team recorded a defensive stop when it needed it the most, holding on for a dramatic 56-55 win over Mid-American Conference-West Division leading Ball State Saturday afternoon at the Convocation Center.
Smith set a season-high with 20 points, leading a threesome of Huskies (10-17, 5-9 MAC) in double figures. Darion "Jake" Anderson poured in 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and six assists, while Ante Dzepina, making his first start of the season, chipped in 10 points on 3-of-3 shooting, to go along with a 4-of-5 effort from the free throw line.
The win was the 200th career victory for NIU head coach Ricardo Patton, who became just the fourth active head coach in the MAC to accomplish that feat. Dzepina started in place of Sean Kowal, who was recovering from a mild concussion he suffered against Western Michigan Wednesday.
After enduring a five-game losing streak in MAC play, the Huskies have now won three-straight games, and four-of-five, to post their fifth league win. NIU will wrap up regular-season play on the road at Eastern Michigan (March 4) and Toledo (March 8).
NIU led by as many as 10 points mid-way through the second half, but the Cardinals (13-14, 7-7 MAC) rallied, and after forcing Anderson into a missed shot with just 15 seconds left, called timeout with 8.7 seconds remaining to set-up the final shot.
Ball State's Brandon Lampley missed an ensuing fade-away jumper, and the clock ran out, with neither team corralling the rebound. Lampley finished with a game-high tying 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, including four three-pointers. Waukegan, Ill., native Laron Frazier chipped in 14 points, joining Lampley in double figures.
Despite shooting just 31 percent from the field in the opening half, the Huskies held a 16-8 advantage in the paint, and led by two (23-21) at the intermission. Anderson had a near double-double in the opening stanza, scoring 12 points to go along with eight rebounds, including three offensive boards. The Cardinals were held to just a 34.8 percent shooting effort.
Ball State's lone lead of the second half came at the 16:23 mark, after Rob Giles hit a three-pointer, to give the Cardinals a 34-32 edge. But NIU answered with a commanding 16-4 run, capped off with a trey by Smith, to claim a game-high 10-point (48-38) lead with 9:21 left.
The Cardinals countered with an 11-4 spurt, and trimmed the deficit to just three points, 54-51, with 2:49 remaining. Back-to-back free throws by Dzepina just 15 seconds later gave NIU a 56-51 lead, but Lampley answered with a lay-up, pulling the Cardinals back within one possession (56-53).
NIU missed its next two field goal attempts, along with a free throw, and clinged to a 56-53 lead with 1:15 remaining. Ball State called timeout, and Lampley trimmed NIU's lead to 56-55 with a running jumper with just 48 seconds left.
After Anderson missed the driving six-footer in traffic, Lampley's potential game-winner fell short, securing the win for the Huskies.
- With Saturday's 200th career victory, NIU head coach Ricardo Patton joined fellow Mid-American Conference head coaches Keith Dambrot (Akron), Charlie Coles (Miami University) and Steve Hawkins (Western Michigan) with 200-or-more career wins.
- Darion "Jake" Anderson recorded his 22nd double-digit scoring output of the season.
- Sean Smith has now scored in double figures in four of the last five games.
- Anderson's eight rebounds led the way for the Huskies - he has led NIU in rebounding 10 times this season.
- NIU's three-consecutive wins represents its first winning streak (three or more straight victories) since Nov. 13-25, 2006, when the Huskies opened the 2006-07 campaign with three-consecutive non-conference wins.
- The Huskies recorded their first win this season when being out-rebounded (35-29).
- NIU improved to 8-3 on the season when holding a halftime lead.
- The Huskies committed a season-low tying nine turnovers in the win.
- NIU improved to 2-16 on the season when being out-shot by its opponent (46.7 percent-to-43.1 percent).
- The 56-55 victory marked the first time this season NIU was able to secure a win when scoring less than 60 points; NIU is now 4-1 on the season when holding its opponent to less than 60 points.
- The Huskies finished the month of February with four wins, the most single-month victories in the Ricardo Patton era.