Huskie Men's Hoops Wraps Up MAC Road Swing at WMU Saturday

Mike DiNunno

Jan. 15, 2009

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DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team (5-9, 1-1 MAC) will look to climb back to .500 in Mid-American Conference play when the Huskies take on MAC-West preseason favorite Western Michigan (5-10, 2-0) at University Arena in Kalamazoo, Mich., Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. CST.

NIU owned a nine-point second-half lead, but was eventually outlasted (60-54) by host Ball State in the MAC road opener Tuesday night at Worthen Arena. The setback came on the heels of the Huskies' 75-51 win over Toledo (Jan. 10) in the league opener. Overall, the Huskies are 1-4 on the road this season.

Western Michigan got off to an 0-3 start in non-conference play, but has won three-of the last five games, including Wednesday's night's 70-52 victory over visiting Toledo. The Broncos also defeated rival Central Michigan (72-63) in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., on Jan. 11.

NIU (5-9, 1-1 MAC) at Western Michigan (5-10, 2-0)
Date: Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009
Tip-off: 1 p.m. CST
Location: Kalamazoo, Mich.
Arena: University Arena
Television: None
Radio: Huskie Sports Radio Network
Bill Baker (play-by-play)/Casey Kahler (color)
Flagship: WLBK-AM (1360, DeKalb)

Dating back to the 1984-85 campaign, Northern Illinois has dropped 14-of its last 15 games against MAC-West rival Western Michigan in Kalamazoo.

The Huskies' last victory against host WMU was March 4, 2006, in the regular season finale. The win wrapped up NIU's 2006 outright MAC-West championship.

» Northern Illinois and Western Michigan will be playing for the 72nd time in the all-time series Saturday. The Huskies will be looking to snap a four-game losing skid against the Broncos, dating back to the 2006-07 season.
» NIU will be seeking its sixth win of the season against Western Michigan, which would equal the Huskies' entire win total from the 2007-08 campaign (6-22, 3-12 MAC).
» The Huskies are 1-4 on the road this season, with an 0-1 MAC road slate. NIU defeated host Alaska Anchorage in the Great Alaska Shootout on Nov. 28, 2008, and suffered road setbacks at Tennessee State (Nov. 21) and Air Force (Dec. 3). The Huskies were 1-3 on neutral courts during the non-conference portion of the season.
» Sophomore guard Darion "Jake" Anderson enters Saturday's game at Western Michigan within reach of two more significant milestones. Anderson has 198 career field goals, and is just two away from equaling 200 made field goals for his career. He is also just six points away from recording his 600th career point.
» Saturday's contest will wrap up NIU's mini two-game MAC road swing. NIU will play three-of its ensuing four league contests at the Convocation Center in DeKalb, Ill., including next Tuesday's battle against West Division foe Eastern Michigan.
» Tuesday's 60-54 loss at Ball State dropped Northern Illinois to 0-4 on the season when failing to score 60 points. The Huskies also recorded season lows in points (54), field goals attempted (44) and steals (4). NIU, however, held its second-consecutive opponent under 40 percent shooting from the field for the first time this season.
» After allowing its non-conference opponents to score 78.8 points per game, NIU has allowed just 55.5 points through its first two MAC tilts. The Huskies allowed a season-low 51 points in their league-opening win over Toledo (Jan. 10), and gave up 60 points at Ball State Tuesday.

The Huskies enter Saturday's game at WMU leading the MAC in field goal percentage defense (.368) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.231), while ranking second in scoring defense (55.5 ppg).

MUNCIE, Ind. - Despite holding its second-consecutive conference opponent under 40 percent shooting from the field, the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (5-9, 1-1 MAC) dropped its Mid-American Conference road opener, 60-54, versus host Ball State (7-7, 2-0) Tuesday night at Worthen Arena.

The Huskies limited the Cardinals to just 38.6 percent shooting, including a 37 percent mark in the first half. But Ball State out-scored the Huskies 33-20 in the second half, and finished the game with an efficient 17 assists on its 22 field goals.

Darion "Jake" Anderson led the Huskies in scoring for the 10th time this season, pouring in 16 points to go along with a team-high tying eight rebounds. Freshman guard Mike DiNunno chipped in 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, and Sean Kowal added 10 points. The Huskies were playing their second-consecutive game without the services of reserve guard Michael Patton, who continues to nurse a high right ankle sprain, and did not make the trip to Muncie.

Ball State was led by Jarrod Jones and Rob Giles, who each contributed 11 points in starting roles. The Cardinals were playing their first game without three-time MAC-West Player of the Week Anthony Newell, who will miss the remainder of the season with a broken leg.

Northern Illinois (5-9, 1-1 MAC), which will be playing its second-consecutive MAC-West road contest, enters Saturday's game tied for second place in the division alongside Eastern Michigan. The Huskies are 3-2 at home, 1-4 on the road, and 1-3 on neutral courts this season.

The Huskies, mentored by second-year head coach Ricardo Patton, return five lettermen and one starter (Darion "Jake" Anderson) from last year's 6-22 (3-12 MAC) team. In all, 10 players that were either red-shirted or did not play last season are members of the Northern Illinois active roster for the 2008-09 campaign.

Three players are averaging double-figures in scoring. Anderson, the 2008 Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year, averages a team-best 18.0 points per game and is also leading the team in rebounds (80), field goals (82), free throws (65) and steals (26), while ranking second in assists (35). Mike DiNunno scores 13.1 points per game, has drained a team-best 32 three-point field goals, and is the team leader in assists (39). Sean Kowal averages 10.4 points per game and leads both NIU and the MAC with a 58.7 field goal percentage.

Sophomore guard Darion "Jake" Anderson enters Saturday's game at Western Michigan within reach of two more significant milestones. Anderson has 198 career field goals, and is just two away from equaling 200 made field goals for his career. He is also just six points away from recording his 600th career point.

On the defensive side, Anderson (26), DiNunno (17) and Najul Ervin (20) have combined to swipe 63 of the Huskies' 116 steals; while Kowal (1.2 bpg) leads the Huskies, and ranks second in the MAC, in blocks per game. NIU has shot 43.2 percent from the field, and held its opponents to a 45.4 field goal percentage. The Huskies are averaging 69.0 points per game, but have allowed 71.7 opponent points per contest.

Western Michigan, the Mid-American Conference West Division preseason favorite, enters Saturday's game with a 5-10 record, and 2-0 MAC slate, after defeating Toledo (70-52) in Kalamazoo on Wednesday. The Broncos are 3-3 inside the confines of University Arena this season.

Two players are averaging double-figures in scoring, led by David Kool's 17.2 points per game. Shawntes Gary is averaging 11.2 points per contest, and tears down a team-best 6.1 rebounds per game. Michael Redell has dished out a team-best 46 assists on the season.

The Broncos are shooting 40.1 percent from the field (12th in MAC), and have allowed their opponents to shoot 41.7 percent. WMU has out-rebounded its opponents, 35.9-to-35.2, and has a MAC fifth-best rebounding margin (+0.7). The Broncos are in their sixth year under the tutelage of head coach Steve Hawkins, who boasts a 7-3 record against NIU in his tenure at WMU.

DeKalb, Ill. - Northern Illinois held Western Michigan to just 33.9 percent shooting from the field, but the Huskies fell 56-49 to the Broncos, at the Convocation Center on Feb. 26, 2008.

The game was the first home contest for a Northern Illinois team since the tragedy on Northern Illinois' campus, Feb. 14. Prior to the game, the five victims were remembered with a moment of silence.

On the court, NIU guard Jarvis Nichols scored 16 points to lead the Huskies, who shot 34.5 percent from the field.

Northern Illinois led by as many as eight in a back-and-forth affair that saw six lead changes and the score tied four times. The Broncos snatched the lead for the final time when Andrew Hershberger hit a pair of free throws, putting his team ahead of NIU 46-44 with 2:34 remaining. David Kool was one of three Broncos in double-figures with 16 points. Hershberger registered 14, while Joe Reitz scored 12 in addition to tallying 15 rebounds.

Dating back to the 1947-48 season, Western Michigan owns a decisive 44-27 all-time series lead against Northern Illinois. Since NIU defeated the Broncos in the second round of the 2003 Mid-American Conference Tournament, WMU has won seven-of the last 10 meetings, including four-straight.

College basketball fans at Western Michigan's University Arena will be treated Saturday afternoon when the Huskies and Broncos collide for the first time in the annual home-and-away series. Darion "Jake" Anderson (18.2 ppg) and David Kool (17.2 ppg), the respective second and fourth-leading scorers in the Mid-American Conference, will play against each other for the third time in their respective careers. Last season, Kool averaged 11.5 points per game in two contests against the Huskies, while Anderson, the 2008 MAC Freshman of the Year, scored just 6.0 points per contest versus WMU.

Darion "Jake" Anderson

A 12-year NCAA Division I head coaching veteran, NIU's Ricardo Patton (Belmont, 1980), is in his second season as head coach of the Huskies. He owns a 194-189 mark as the mentor at both Colorado and NIU, and has taken six teams to the postseason, with a pair of NCAA Tournament berths. He has coached three NBA Draft choices, including 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups.

Patton's staff includes Chicago native and associate head coach Dennis Gates, who was a four-year letterwinner at Cal. He came to DeKalb after three seasons as an assistant coach for his alma mater. Well-plugged into the Chicago metropolitan region, Gates is a 1998 graduate of Chicago Whitney Young High School, where he helped the Dolphins to the 1998 IHSA and Class `AA' state championship.

Assistant coach Sundance Wicks is in his third season as a member of Patton's staff, having served one season as an assistant coach at Colorado, and coming to DeKalb after Patton took over the head coaching duties at NIU. He also coached at his alma mater, Northern State, under legendary head coach Don Meyer.

Memphis, Tenn., native Will Smith was elevated from director of basketball operations to assistant coach in May. Smith played under Patton at Colorado from 1996-2000. Former Alaska Anchorage letterwinner (2002-04) Scott Stevens is the program's director of basketball operations.

Northern Illinois entered Mid-American Conference play ranked 12th in the league in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense and three-point field goal percentage defense. During its 21-day break (Dec. 20-Jan. 10) from competitive action, a vastly improved defensive effort was preached every day in practice. Through two MAC contests, that message has been heard loud and clear. The Huskies enter Saturday's game at WMU leading the MAC in field goal percentage defense (.368) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.231), while ranking second in scoring defense (55.5 ppg).

Sean Kowal and Sean Smith share more similarities than merely the spelling of their first names. Kowal and Smith are roommates, and also share a common thread in the Mid-American Conference: Kowal leads the league with a 58.7 field goal percentage, and Smith is the MAC leader in three-point field goal percentage, at 54.2 percent.

Darion "Jake" Anderson (252 points), Mike DiNunno (184) Sean Kowal (145) and Sean Smith (100) have all eclipsed the 100-point plateau this season. All four players are averaging at least 19.0 minutes per game. Smith scored eight points against Ball State to secure his 100th point of the season.

Sophomore guard Michael Patton missed his second-straight game Tuesday, continuing to nurse a right ankle injury he suffered in practice last Wednesday. Meanwhile, junior Najul Ervin was limited to just 11 minutes, without playing in the second half, after aggravating a knee injury late in the first stanza against Ball State.

Northern Illinois enters this weekend's slate of conference games as the 10th-ranked team in the MAC in free throw percentage (.605). The Huskies have shot just 54.1 percent (20-of-37) from the free throw line in two conference games this season.

Northern Illinois was picked to finish sixth in the West Division of the Mid-American Conference, as announced by the league office in conjunction with the 2008-09 men's and women's basketball media day at Quicken Loans Arena. The poll was voted on by members of the MAC News Media Association.



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