DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team knew that the Mid-American Conference was a dogfight and the Huskies' first three games have proven that theory true as each of those contests have come down to the final possession.
The Huskies (4-11, 1-2 MAC), who have lost their last two conference games, look to get back on track on Tuesday night, as NIU travels to Muncie, Ind., to square off with Ball State (4-12, 0-3 MAC) for a 6 p.m. (CST) tip-off at John E. Worthen Arena.
NIU dropped a 67-64 decision at the hands of Central Michigan on Saturday (Jan. 13) despite a career-high 23 points from junior forward Shaun Logan. Huskie senior guard Mike McKinney posted 15 points, while teammate James Hughes added 10 points, six rebounds and five blocks in the defeat.
The Cardinals are coming off of a 56-52 defeat at the hands of Eastern Michigan on Saturday afternoon. BSU freshman guard Ahmaad Cook came off the bench and converted five three-pointers for a team-high 17 points to lead the Cardinals, while teammate Micah Rollin added 13 points in the defeat.
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 71-89 including last season's Mid-American Conference West Division championship. Ball State head coach Ronny Thompson is in his first year as the Cardinals' skipper and has totaled a mark of 4-12 in Muncie.
THE SERIES -- Ball State holds a 37-28 advantage over the Huskies in their all-time series.
THE LAST TIME -- Northern Illinois, led by a game-high 21 points from senior Todd Peterson, shot 54.5% (24-for-44) from the field to earn the 78-73 win over Ball State in Muncie, Ind., on March 1, 2006. Ball State guard D'Andre Peyton topped the Cardinals with 21 points.
INJURY UPDATE -- Junior wing Ben Rand 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. 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. Huskie redshirt junior Jarvis Nichols joined Rand and Yelder on the injured list as he suffered a broken left foot in practice on Jan. 4.
DOUBLE DUTY -- Northern Illinois has totaled four double-doubles this season including:
James Hughes (20 points, 12 rebounds) at Eastern Michigan on Jan. 9;
Mike McKinney (19 points, 13 rebounds) at Marist on Dec. 29; Shaun Logan (15 points, 11 rebounds) at Stephen F. Austin on Dec. 22;
James Hughes (22 points, 10 rebounds) against Duquesne on Nov. 25.
MAC TELECONFERENCE -- The MAC will hold a weekly teleconference for men's basketball coaches on Monday's during the basketball season. Each coach will be available for approximately seven minutes. The media session for NIU head coach Rob Judson begins at 9:16 a.m. (CST) every Monday. For information on how to join in on the teleconference, please contact NIU Assistant Media Relations Director Matt Brendich.
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.
CRASHING THE BOARDS -- Junior point guard Ryan Paradise entered last Saturday's contest against CMU with 10 rebounds in his first nine games this season. The Naperville, Ill., native responded with a team-best seven rebounds against the Chippewas.
BLOCK PARTY -- Senior center James Hughes currently sits in second place in Huskie history with 178 career blocks. The reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year needs 22 more swats for the school-record of 200, currently held by Allen Rayhorn (1978-82).
SEEKING 1,000 -- Senior guard Mike McKinney enters Tuesday's contest with 913 points. McKinney, who is currently averaging 13.4 points-per-game, is on pace to reach the 1,000-point plateau against Bowling Green on February 7.
SHOOTING STROKE -- Senior center James Hughes is currently the school-record holder for career field-goal percentage, as the Silvis, Ill., native has converted 57.5% (343-for-597) of his career field-goal attempts.
GETTING TO THE LINE -- Both junior forward Shaun Logan and senior guard Mike McKinney each went to the free throw line 12 times in Saturday's 67-64 loss at the hands of Central Michigan. That marks the first time during Rob Judson's tenure that two players reached the free throw line at least ten times in the same game.
GETTING TO THE LINE (PART DEUX) -- NIU senior center James Hughes has converted his last 14 free throw attempts, while junior guard/forward Zach Pancratz has knocked down his last 11 charity tosses.
GETTING TO THE LINE (PART TROIS) -- The Huskies have been quite efficient from the free throw line in the past four games as NIU has knocked down 77.5% (69-for-89) of their attempts from the charity stripe. During this span, NIU has increased its free-throw shooting from 64.3% to 68.4%.
BALLIN' AGAINST BALL STATE -- In five career contests against Ball State, senior center James Hughes is averaging 9.4 points and 3.8 rebounds-per-game, while teammate Zach Pancratz is chipping in 9.3 points and 3.0 boards in four games against the Cardinals.
GETTING OUT OF THE GATE -- NIU has struggled to get out of the gate during the past 12 games as the Huskies are averaging 27.0 points and 10.5 turnovers while shooting 40.1% from the floor in the opening 20 minutes of each game. Conversely, the Huskies have responded in the second half, averaging 36.5 points and shooting 48.8% from the field in the final stanza of the past 12 contests.
20/20 VISION -- A NIU player has tallied 20+ points in a half two times this season, 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.
WELCOME BACK -- Since his return from a five-game absence due to an undetermined illness, junior point guard Ryan Paradise is averaging 12.2 points and is shooting 48.1% (13-for-27) from three-point range in six games.
UP NEXT -- The Huskies return to the road and head to Ohio for a 1 p.m. (CST) tip-off against Toledo on Sunday, Jan. 21st.