Huskies Host Akron Saturday in MAC Home Opener

GO HUSKIES Sophomore forward Keith Gray
GO HUSKIES
Sophomore forward Keith Gray
GO HUSKIES

Jan. 11, 2013

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Northern Illinois Huskies (3-10, 1-0 MAC) vs. Akron Zips (10-4, 1-0 MAC)
Date / Time: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 / 3 p.m. CT
Site: NIU Convocation Center • DeKalb, Ill.
Radio: WLBK 1360-AM, 98.9-FM in DeKalb, Ill. • WRMN 1410-AM in Elgin, Ill. • Huskie All-Access
Live Video: Huskie All-Access
Live Stats: NIUHuskies.com
Twitter Updates: @NIUscores
All-time Series: Akron leads 19-9
Last Meeting: Feb. 11, 2012 • Akron 75-51

CELEBRATE VICTOR E.’S BIRTHDAY
Northern Illinois Athletics will be celebrating the birthday of Victor E. Huskie at Saturday’s basketball game. Come join Victor E. and his mascot friends from around the area.

WHAT’S TRENDING
• NIU won its conference opener for the first time since 2009-10 when the Huskies won at Ball State. NIU opened league play 4-0 that season.
• Northern Illinois is shooting 81.1 percent (43-of-53) as a team from the free-throw line in the last three games.  
Akeem Springs is averaging 10.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game, shooting 46.3 percent from the field and 50 percent from three, in five appearances off the bench this season.
Darrell Bowie is scoring 8.3 points and pulling down 4.3 rebounds while shooting 61.5 percent in three games as a starter. Bowie has set a new career-high in scoring in each of the three games he has started (7 at Washington Dec. 22, 8 vs. UMass Dec. 29, 10 at Miami Jan. 9).  
Travon Baker has eight assists and just three turnovers in the past three games. Baker tied a career-high with four assists last time out against Miami.
• NIU’s nine 3-point field goals against Miami were a season-high. The last time NIU made more than nine 3-pointers in a game was March 3, 2012, when the Huskies made 10 at Ball State.
• The Huskies also made a season-high 21 free throws against the RedHawks, tying the best mark during the Mark Montgomery era set in Jan. 28, 2012 against Buffalo.
• 10 different players have started at least one game for the Huskies with Antone Christian becoming the 10th player to make a start, making his first start of the year at Miami (Jan. 9).
Sam Mader is shooting 59.3 percent from the field in home games this season versus just 34.2 percent on the road.

BREAKING A 32-YEAR HEX
• With its 72-61 victory at Miami on Jan. 9, Northern Illinois snapped a 13-game losing streak in Oxford, Ohio. NIU’s last road victory against the RedHawks came on Feb. 21, 1981.
• The Huskies entered the game at Miami with a 1-19 record all-time in Oxford.
• The victory over Miami gave NIU a 1-0 start in conference play for the first time since 2009-10 when the Huskies won at Ball State in the league opener.
• Having broken the losing streak at Miami, NIU’s longest conference road losing streak is now six, at Buffalo. The last Huskie victory in Buffalo came on Feb. 6, 2003.

A TALE OF TWO HALVES
• The Huskies season thus far has been a tale of two halves with NIU finding greater success after halftime.
• The Huskies are averaging nearly eight more points per game in the second half that the first half while shooting seven percent better from the field, eight percent better from three and 5.5 percent better from the free-throw line.
• In the opening 20 minutes this season, NIU is averaging 25.0 points while shooting 34.9 percent from the field, 26.4 percent from three and 64.4 percent from the free-throw line.
• The Huskies have 55 first half assists and 110 first half turnovers.
Abdel Nader is NIU’s leading scorer in the first half of games this season, averaging 4.3 points.
• In the second half this year, NIU is averaging 32.7 points while shooting 42.0 percent from the field, 34.2 percent from three and 69.9 percent from the free-throw line.
• NIU has 69 second half assists and 92 second half turnovers.
Abdel Nader is also NIU’s leading second half scorer at 9.8 points.

A LOOK AT THE 2012-13 SEASON
• Freshmen have played 60.9 percent of the minutes this season for NIU; sophomores have added another 22.1 percent of the minutes.
• Preseason All-MAC selection Abdel Nader played his first game of the season at UW Milwaukee (Dec. 7) after a season-opening suspension for violation of team rules.
• Northern Illinois is outrebounding its opponents by an average of 1.9 boards per contest.  
• Northern Illinois returns its top-five scoring letterwinners and top-six rebounders from a season ago.
• 10 of the 15 players making up the Huskie roster this season are underclassmen.
• Of the five upperclassmen on NIU’s roster, one will sit out this season following a transfer (Pete Rakocevic) and another had never played a Division I game until this season (Brandon Hayes).
• NIU made its first appearance in the ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, playing Valparaiso at 7 a.m. CT on Tuesday, Nov. 13. The Huskies were one of two MAC schools, along with Kent State, that will appear in the marathon.
• The Huskies will play 10 teams that appeared in postseason play a season ago: Valpo (Horizon League regular season champs, NIT), Dayton (NIT), Milwaukee (CBI), Washington (Pac-12 regular season champs, NIT Final Four), UMass (NIT Final Four), Akron (MAC regular season champs, NIT), Bowling Green (CIT), Buffalo (CIT), Kent State (CIT) and Ohio (NCAA Sweet 16).

THE EXPERIENCE TRACKER
• Developed by StatSheet.com, “The Experience Tracker” looks at the experience per minute played by every team in the country.
• Each team’s number is generated by taking the sum of minutes each player plays, multiplied by their class (1-freshmen, 2-sophomores, 3-juniors, 4-seniors) divided by the total of team minutes.
• Northern Illinois is currently the third-least experienced team in the country (1.58), behind only Arkansas-Little Rock (1.30) and Texas (1.43).
• See page five for a complete chart of the nation’s least experienced teams.

IN THE MAC RANKINGS
Travon Baker is fourth in the MAC, tops among freshmen, with 1.9 steals per game.
• At 9.7 points per game, Akeem Springs ranks 28th in the MAC in scoring, third among freshmen.
Kevin Gray ranks 14th in the conference pulling down 1.9 offensive rebounds per contest.
Sam Mader is 13th in the MAC with 0.9 blocks per game.
• The Huskies lead the conference in offensive rebounding averaging 13.3 offensive boards per game.
• NIU is second in defensive rebounding percentage (71.1 percent) and third in steals per game (8.5).

WHAT’S BACK FOR NIU
• With its six-man returning nucleus from a season ago, the Huskies return more than 60 percent of their production for 2011-12 in most statistical categories.
• The following are NIU’s percentages returning from last season: minutes (60.7 percent), scoring (62.6), rebounds (63.1), assists (47.0), blocks (71.2) and steals (57.1).
• By comparison, here are the numbers that returned at the beginning of last season from the 2010-11 campaign: minutes (33.8 percent), scoring (32.0), rebounds (31.8), assists (26.6), blocks (39.7) and steals (27.4).

ABOUT AKRON
• The Zips bring a 10-4 overall record to DeKalb but are still looking for their first road win of the season. Akron is 8-0 at home, 2-1 on neutral courts and 0-3 on the road this season.
• Zeke Marshall leads the Zips averaging 12.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Marshall is also averaging 3.6 blocks per game, which ranks in the top-five nationally.
• Akron is the top-scoring team in the MAC averaging 77.1 points per contest.
• The Zips are holding opponents to 38.8 percent field goal shooting, the best mark in the conference.
• Akron has appeared in the MAC Tournament championship game in six-straight seasons and is one of just seven schools in the nation to win 22 games or more in each of the last seven seasons.

ALL-TIME SERIES
• Akron leads the all-time series with Northern Illinois, 19-9.
• The Huskies and Zips have split the 14 previous meetings in DeKalb, 7-7.
• The home team has won the last four meetings in the series, with the Zips winning in Akron in 2010 and 2012 and the Huskies winning in DeKalb in 2009 and 2011.
• Northern Illinois holds a 3-2 edge in the last five meetings with Akron while the Zips have won six of the last 10.

MIAMI RECAP
• NIU defeated Miami, 72-61, in its conference opener, snapping a 13-game losing streak in Oxford, Ohio. The victory was NIU’s first at Miami since Feb. 21, 1981.
• The Huskies shot 69.2 percent (9-of-13) from behind the 3-point line, NIU’s best performance during Mark Montgomery’s tenure.
• NIU shot 63.2 percent (12-of-19) from the field in the second half, including 66.7 percent (4-of-6) from behind the arc.
• Northern Illinois made a season-best 21 free throws on 26 attempts (80.8 percent).
Aksel Bolin led NIU in scoring with 11 points, it is the fourth time this season Bolin has been NIU’s leading scorer.  
• The Huskies grabbed a season-low four offensive rebounds, but also held Miami to just four offensive rebounds.
Antone Christian made his first start of the season, becoming the 10th different player to start at least one game for NIU.
Darrell Bowie set a new career-high for points for the third straight game. Bowie had 10 points while also tying a career-high with five rebounds.
• The NIU bench outscored Miami’s reserves, 44-8.
• Northern Illinois won its first conference game for the first time since defeating Ball State in the league opener in 2009-10.
Travon Baker tied a career-high with four assists. Baker committed just one turnover in 24 minutes of action.

COMMON THEMES IN VICTORY
• Northern Illinois has scored at least 65 points in each of its victories this season. The Huskies have won just once under Mark Montgomery when scoring less than 60 points.
• NIU has just one win under Montgomery when shooting a lower field goal percentage than its opponent. The Huskies are 3-2 this season when shooting a better percentage than the opposition.
• The Huskies are 3-1 this season when they have more assists than the opponent.

OF NOTE…
• Northern Illinois did not win a game last season in which the Huskies allowed more than 69 points.
• The Huskies were 3-4 in games decided by five points or less last season.
• NIU did not play an overtime game last season. The Huskies went 41 games between overtime contests from Feb. 26, 2011 to Dec. 7, 2012.
• The Huskies shot a better field goal percentage than their opponents in four of their five victories last season. NIU also had a better 3-point shooting percentage than its opponents in all five victories a year ago.
• NIU outrebounded its opponents 18 times last season, including in four of its five wins.

THE PRESEASON PICKS
• NIU was picked to finish fifth in the MAC West in the preseason conference media poll. Toledo was picked to win the MAC West, followed by Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Ball State, NIU and Central Michigan.
• The MAC East was picked to finish as follows: Ohio, Akron, Kent State, Buffalo, Bowling Green and Miami. Ohio was also picked as the favorite to win the MAC Tournament.
Abdel Nader was one of five played named to the West Division Preseason All-MAC Team. Joining Nader are Ball State’s Jesse Berry, Toledo’s Rian Pearson and Julius Brown and Western Michigan’s Nate Hutcheson.