Dec. 22, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. - Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson notched his sixth career double-double and his second of the season, to help the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (2-6) to a 87-69 victory over Maryland Eastern Shore (3-7) Tuesday afternoon at the Convocation Center.
Anderson tore down 10 rebounds to go with 15 points to snap NIU's five game losing streak. The Huskies were led by Xavier Silas' 19 points, and earned a dominant 50-26 edge over the Hawks in the paint.
"This was a much needed win," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "I thought the guys did a good job on the defensive end, and were very unselfish on the offensive end."
The Hawks (3-7) opened the game's scoring with a quick three ball, but never saw the lead again as all five Huskie starters drained baskets in a powerful 12-5 run in the game's first five minutes.
Sophomore guard Mike DiNunno ignited the run scoring the first bucket for the Huskies, and kept it fueled by swiping two steals on consecutive Hawk possessions. NIU shot a blistering 62.5 percent from the field during the opening run.
NIU's big men helped maintain the lead and sent the Huskies into the locker room at the half with a 44-30 advantage. Sophomore forward Lee Fisher chipped in a career-high nine points in the first half, while junior Sean Kowal poured in seven points on a 3-of-3 shooting effort. Kowal ended the game with 12 points going 5-6 from the field.
"We were having fun out there," Kowal said. "It was tough for the guards to get the ball to me; they were pushing it in against a smaller team. But as a big unit we told each other we need to get offensive rebounds, get up and keep crashing the glass, and get put-backs."
Kowal sparked the crowd with two strong dunks, including a high rising flush by Silas in transition. The Huskies held a 22-12 advantage in the paint during the game's first 20 minutes.
"It was important for Sean (Kowal) to realize that he's going to play a fatigued starter or a team's second guy," Patton said of his choice to bring in Kowal off the bench. "That should render him better. I think he is comfortable in his role."
Both teams traded buckets to start out the second period before NIU regained its momentum after a hard drive to the basket by sophomore guard Bryan Hall. Hall missed the shot but teammate Tyler Storm was in the area for the put-back. The Huskies went on an 11-0 run ending with another big dunk, this time from senior Najul Ervin.
With seven minutes left on the clock, the Hawks went on 7-0 tear of their own before DiNunno put a stop to the run with a no look pass to Ervin who was open for the score. Seconds later, DiNunno grabbed his third steal of the night and dished the ball to Michael Patton who was fouled and hit both free-throws. NIU totaled a season-high 12 steals in the match-up.
The Hawks never lost hope, climbing within 10 points of the Huskies in the game's final five minutes. However, NIU's 50-26 advantage in the paint was too much to overcome. The Huskies finished the game with a season high 66 shot attempts, sinking 48.5 percent of their tries from the field.
Northern Illinois will take seven days off for the holidays, before hosting No. 22/25 Temple at the Convocation Center on Dec. 30. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. CST.