Dominant Second-Half Lifts Huskies Past Cougars, 93-81

GO HUSKIES Sean Kowal scored a career-high 23 pounts to go with 12 rebounds, Saturday, in NIU's 93-81 win over Chicago State.
Sean Kowal scored a career-high 23 pounts to go with 12 rebounds, Saturday, in NIU's 93-81 win over Chicago State.

Dec. 6, 2008

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Darion "Jake" Anderson (32 points), Najul Ervin (10) and Sean Kowal (23) all recorded career-highs in scoring, lifting the Northern Illinois men's basketball (4-5) to a dominating second-half, and 93-81 win over in-state rival Chicago State (3-4) Saturday afternoon. The Huskies scored 90 or more points for the first time in the Ricardo Patton era, and the first overall since Feb. 26, 2006.

Anderson's game-high 32 points led the Huskies in scoring for the fifth-consecutive game. Ervin's 10 points came on 5-of-6 shooting, and Kowal had a career-high 12 rebounds to go along with his 23 points, securing his first career double-double.

Freshman guard Mike DiNunno chipped in 14 points and nine assists, as the Huskies racked up 27 team assists on their 36 field goals. It was the first time an NIU team eclipsed the 35 field goal mark since the 2005-06 campaign, when the Huskies defeated Aurora, 102-61, with 38 team field goals. Chicago State was led by David Holston's 32 points. Holston came into the contest as the nation's second-leading scorer with 27.7 points per game.

The Huskies owned statistical advantages in field goals (36-29), rebounding (40-36) and assists (27-11). Northern Illinois is now 4-0 this season when holding a rebounding edge over its opponent. The Huskies also recorded a decisive advantage in the paint, out-scoring the Cougars, 58-30.

Chicago State's up-tempo offense put the Huskies on their heels early in the game. After NIU jumped out to a 6-2 lead, the Cougars answered with a 17-10 surge, and claimed a 19-16 lead after Holston's first three-pointer of the game. Another three by Mike Wilson gave Chicago State its largest lead of the game, 32-22, with 8:49 remaining in the opening half.

The Huskies answered with a 14-4 spree over the ensuing 5:17, with Kowal, Sean Smith, Anderson and Bryan Hall all contributing field goals in the stretch. NIU eventually tied the game at 38-38 after Kowal's third dunk of the half. Hall's free throw with 25 seconds remaining in the opening frame tied the game at 41-41, heading into the locker room at halftime.

The Huskies opened the second half on a 12-5 surge and forced Chicago State into its first timeout of the stanza with 16:01 remaining, and NIU clinging to a 53-46 lead. The run was started with a thundering, coast-to-coast dunk by Ervin, a Memphis, Tenn., native. Anderson's first field goal of the second-half gave NIU its first double-digit lead (59-49) of the game at the 15:12 mark of the second half.

NIU's lead reached a game-high 19 points (75-56) with 9:28 remaining, after the Huskies capitalized on another 14-4 run, with Anderson providing two field goals in the five-minute stretch. But Chicago State charged back with 16-6 spree, and trimmed the Huskie lead to single-digits, 81-73, at the 5:00 mark.

John Cantrell's ensuing dunk cut the NIU lead to six, 81-75, before the Huskies answered with four-straight points to push the lead back to 10 points, 85-75. The Cougars never drew closer than eight points for the remainder of the game.

NIU will play at Arkansas-Little Rock next Sunday (Dec. 14) in its fourth road game of the season. Tip-off from the Jack Stephens Center is set for 1 p.m. CST.



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