DeKalb, Ill. - Home sweet home.
After enduring a rather harsh seven-game road trip, the Northern Illinois men's basketball team returns to the NIU Convocation Center to open Mid-American Conference play against Western Michigan for a 2 p.m. tip-off on Saturday afternoon.
WMU enters Saturday's contest with a mark of 5-8 following Tuesday night's 83-52 non-conference victory over Culver-Stockton in Kalamazoo. Freshman guard Derek Drews came off the bench to score a game-high 17 points for the Broncos, while teammates Joe Reitz (16 points) and Jon Workman (10 points) each scored in double-figures.
THE COACHES -- Rob Judson is in his sixth season at the helm of the NIU men's basketball team, and has a career-record of 70-87 including last season's Mid-American Conference West Division championship. Western Michigan head coach Steve Hawkins is in his fourth year as the Broncos' skipper and has totaled a mark of 65-43 in four years in Kalamazoo, and has a career-record of 163-138 in 13 seasons.
THE SERIES -- Western Michigan holds a 40-26 advantage over the Huskies in their all-time series.
THE LAST TIME -- NIU clinched its first-ever MAC West Division title with a 74-59 victory over the Broncos on March 4, 2006. Huskie seniors Todd Peterson (24 points, 15 rebounds) and Anthony Maestranzi (20 points) combined for 44 points in the win.
CONFERENCE OPENERS -- NIU head coach Rob Judson is 2-3 in conference openers, including wins against both Akron (66-58, 12/4/04) and Toledo (73-69, 12/3/05) in the last two seasons.
CALLING ALL ALUMNI -- NIU men's basketball is holding its annual `Alumni Game' on January 27 at 11 a.m. in the NIU Convocation Center. To participate or attend please RSVP to Northern Illinois SID Emeritus Mike Korcek at 815-753-9559 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPREADING THE WEALTH -- Just 12 games into the season and the Huskies have had five different players lead the team in scoring as seniors Mike McKinney, James Hughes, juniors Zach Pancratz and Ryan Paradise, and sophomore Quintan Lipkins have all led NIU in tallies.
INJURY UPDATE -- Junior wing Ben Rand (Rochelle, Ill.) underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to remove scar tissue from his right knee on Thursday, January 4. This is the same knee that Rand had ACL reconstruction surgery on March 31, 2006. Rand is the second Huskie player to have his knee scoped in the last week, as freshman point guard Cody Yelder underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Dec. 28 to correct damaged meniscal cartilage that presented itself during the Lamar contest on Dec. 20.
FINDING HIS RANGE -- Senior guard Mike McKinney has led the Huskies in scoring five times this season, when he accomplished that feat just three times in 2005-06. Over the past four games, McKinney is shooting 54.0% (27-for-50) from the field.
SHOOTING STROKE -- Senior center James Hughes is currently the school-record holder for career field-goal percentage, as the Silvis, Ill., native has converted 57.8% (333-for-576) of his career field-goal attempts.
RETURN TO PARADISE -- In his first start since returning from an illness that cost him five games, junior point guard Ryan Paradise responded with a career-high 23 points and tied a career-high with five treys in the 67-63 loss to Marist on December 29.
TIME CHANGE -- The tip-off time for NIU's contest against Ohio on February 10 in Athens, has been changed from 1 p.m. (CST) to 2 p.m. (CST) as it is a Mid-American Conference Television Game of the Week.
20/20 VISION -- For the second time this season, a NIU player has tallied 20+ points in a half, as senior center James Hughes scored 24 of his career and game-high 27 points in the Huskies 72-70 loss against Georgia Southern on December 8th. Junior guard / forward Zach Pancratz accomplished that feat earlier this year as he scored a career-high 22 points, including six treys, in the second half of NIU's 72-62 loss against Winthrop on December 2nd.
ALL TOURNAMENT TEAM -- After averaging 16 points and 8.5 rebounds against Marist and Bucknell, senior guard Mike McKinney was named to the Marist Pepsi Classic All-Tournament team.
CHARITY STRIPE -- In NIU's three victories, the Huskies averaged 28.3 shots from the free throw line. In their nine losses since, NIU has averaged 14.8 charity tosses-per-game.
TIME MACHINE -- In his three appearances since his return from illness, junior point guard Ryan Paradise has done his share of scoring over the last five minutes of each game as the Naperville, Ill., native is averaging 7.7 points and shooting 81.8% (9-for-11) from the field and 83.3% (5-for-6) from beyond the three-point arc.
BLOCK PARTY -- Senior center James Hughes currently sits in second place in Huskie history with 167 career blocks. The reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year needs 33 more swats for the school-record of 200, currently held by Allen Rayhorn (1978-82).
DOUBLE DUTY -- Northern Illinois has totaled three double-doubles this season including: Mike McKinney (19 points, 13 rebounds) at Marist on Dec. 29; Shaun Logan (15 points, 11 rebounds) at Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 22, and James Hughes (22 points, 10 rebounds) against Duquesne on Nov. 25.
KELLEY COMING ON -- Freshman forward Bristan Kelley needed some time to get his feet wet in a Huskie uniform as he averaged 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds in his first eight appearances. In his last four games, Kelley has averaged 4.8 points and 4.3 boards-per-contest.
GETTING OUT OF THE GATE -- NIU has struggled to get out of the gate during the past nine games as the Huskies are averaging 26 points and 10.8 turnovers while shooting 40.0% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes of each game. Conversely, the Huskies have responded in the second half, averaging 36.9 points and shooting 49.6% from the field in the final stanza of the past nine contests.
WAITING FOR WESTERN -- In five career contests, senior guard Mike McKinney is averaging 9.8 points and 4.4 rebounds against Western Michigan, including a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds on Jan. 2, 2005.
UP NEXT -- NIU travels to Ypsilanti, Michigan to square off with Eastern Michigan for a 6 p.m. (CST) tip-off at EMU's Convocation Center on Tuesday, January 9.