NIU Men's Basketball Takes On Ohio This Saturday


Game Day Quick Facts:
Northern Illinois vs. Ohio
Game Time: 1 p.m. (CST)

Radio: The Huskie Sports Radio Network will be on the air for Saturday’s game against Ohio University. Bill Baker handles the play-by-play duties, with Sid Simmons providing color commentary. Stations covering the game include: WLBK-AM 1360 - DeKalb; WBIG-AM 1280 - Chicagoland; WRHL-AM 1060 - Rochelle; WSEY-FM 95.7 - Rockford, Freeport; WMKB-FM 102.9 - LaSalle-Peru.

Coaches: Rob Judson (Illinois ’80) is 36-38 in his third season at Northern Illinois. Tim O’Shea (Boston College ’84) is in his third season at Ohio and is 35-37 all-time.

About Ohio University
The Bobcats will be looking to get within a game of .500 in the Mid-American Conference after coming from behind to claim a 90-76 win over Buffalo at home on Dec. 14 ... Making the most of its first home game in 35 days, OU rallied from a 40-31 half time deficit to claim a 90-76 win ... The Bobcats exploded for 59 second-half points to get their first win in nearly a month (Dec. 20 over Navy) ... Jaivon Harris scored 25 points off the bench to pace OU, as Delvar Barrett and Terren Harbut poured in 15 and 14 points respectively ... OU shot 51.6 percent from the floor and 64.7 percent in the second half, both season-high totals ... Ohio also outrebounded the Bills 35-29, its largest rebounding margin of the season.

The NIU Series With Ohio
While Ohio owns a 22-13 all-time series advantage over NIU, the Huskies have won three straight games including a 73-63 win over the Bobcats in DeKalb, IL, on Jan. 3 ... NIU is 5-12 all-time in Athens, OH, but won a 68-61 decision at the OU Convocation Center last season during its seven game road winning streak ... If the Huskies were to upend the Bobcats this afternoon, the subsequent four game winning streak would tie NIU’s longest in series history ... The Huskies won four straight over Ohio from Jan. 8, 1977, through March 4, 1978 ... It would also mark NIU’s second consecutive win at Ohio ... The last time NIU won back-to-back games at Ohio, was Jan. 19, 1980, (69-65) and Feb. 13, 1982, (70-68).

About Head Coach Rob Judson
Rob Judson is in his third season at the helm of the Northern Illinois men’s basketball program and owns a career record of 36-38 ... With the 36 wins in two and a half seasons, the Huskies actually have two more victories than the 34 wins they attained during the four seasons prior to Judson’s arrival ... Those 36 wins also place Judson 10th all-time on the NIU coaching wins list ... He needs just two more wins to tie Roland Cowell (1926-29) for ninth in career wins ... Judson accumulated a 29-30 record through his first-two seasons at NIU ... Only Jim Molinari won more games in his first-two seasons at NIU against intercollegiate opponents ... With Judson as an assistant coach, Molinari’s Huskies went 42-17 in 1989-91, his lone two seasons as head coach ... Roland Cowell also won 29 games against intercollegiate competition from 1926-28, his first two seasons at NIU ... The Huskies have performed well on the road during the Judson era ... After going 5-9 on the road in his first season (2001-02), the Huskies went 8-6 on foreign courts last year including a stretch of seven consecutive road wins in the MAC from Jan. 8 to Feb. 15 ... After taking over a program that won only five games the year before his arrival, Judson’s teams have enjoyed immediate success, winning 12 games in his first season and 17 last year ... Judson’s squad has also fared well in the Mid-American Conference, going 20-18 over his tenure ... Among active coaches, only Charlie Coles of Miami-Ohio (22-14) and Tim Buckley of Ball State (23-13) won more MAC games than Judson in their first two seasons.

What’s In A Name
Perhaps it’s not the hostile crowd or the different rims, maybe it’s the name of the arena that is holding the Huskies back ... A perfect 6-0 at the NIU Convocation Center, the Huskies will try their luck at the Ohio Convocation Center this afternoon ... Although 0-6 in road contests and 1-8 in games away from the NIU Convo, Northern Illinois has seen its road numbers improve lately, but have not won away from DeKalb, IL, since a 54-53 win over Illinois-Chicago at the Iowa Hawkeye-Gazette Classic on Dec. 5.

Senior Scoring Surge
Any way you look at it, seniors Marcus Smallwood and P.J. Smith have been on a scoring spree ... In his last three games, Smallwood has been on a tear, averaging 20.7 points ... Smallwood has posted back-to-back 20-point nights (22 at Bowling Green and 22 vs. EMU) for the first time since his sophomore season, when he scored 20 against Ball State (Feb. 2, 2002) and 20 at Eastern Michigan (Feb. 9, 2002) ... A third consecutive 20-point game by Smallwood would be the first of his career and first for a Huskie since Leon Rodgers (1998-2002) ended his senior season with four straight 20-point games (Feb. 23, 2002 - March 4, 2002) ... After seeing his scoring average dip to 9.4 ppg. following a Dec. 19 loss vs. San Jose State, P.J. Smith is averaging 16.8 points in his last seven contests ... Included in that stretch are 20-point outings vs. St. Francis (Dec. 30) and BYU-Hawaii (Dec. 20), an 18-point performance at Akron and 19 points against Eastern Michigan (Jan. 14) ... In five Mid-American Conference games, Smith leads all Huskies with a 16.4 ppg. scoring average.

Small’s, Smith Ascend NIU Career Scoring List
With another 22-point effort against Eastern Michigan (Jan. 14), Marcus Smallwood now has 1,123 career points, placing him 17th on NIU’s all-time scoring chart ... With his performance against EMU, the Elgin, IL, native passed NIU Hall of Famer George Bork (1960-63) who scored 1,114 points ... Next on the list for Smallwood is the legendary Jim Bradley (1971-73) who scored 1,134 points in just two seasons ... One spot ahead of Bradley in 15th, is current Huskie assistant coach Donald Whiteside (1987-91) who scored 1,155 career points ...Teammate P.J. Smith is also working his way up the Huskies scoring list ... While the Maywood, IL, native has already topped 1,000 points for his collegiate career, he has 967 points in an NIU uniform and needs just 33 tallies to become the 24th player in NIU history to top the 1,000-point plateau ... Smith has scored 1,231 career points, but 264 of those came in an Illinois State Redbird uniform during his freshman season ... Currently, Smith is 25th in career scoring at NIU ... Smallwood topped 1,000 points earlier this season on Dec. 19 vs. San Jose State and Smith’s upcoming milestone will make them the first set of teammates to top 1,000 career points since Leon Rodgers (1998-2002) and Mike Brown (1997-2001) ... The last set of teammates to eclipse 1,000 points in the same season were Billy Harris (1,331) and Jim Bradley (1,134) in 1972-73.

The Perfect Birthday Gift
The big day has come and gone, but head coach Rob Judson and senior guard Walter Thompson received the perfect gift for their Jan. 13 birthday, a win ... Albeit a day late, Judson got his 36th win at NIU to move into 10th on the NIU career wins lists, while Thompson played a season high 20 minutes against Eastern Michigan ... Those 20 minutes were the most for Thompson since Feb. 23, 2002, when he played 24 minutes against Central Michigan as a sophomore.

The Huskie Book Club
A year ago, it was Ernest Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea ... This season, head coach Rob Judson handed out copies of John Steinbeck’s The Pearl as the Huskies embarked on their Jan. 6 -10 road trip to Akron and Bowling Green ... With an assignment to read two chapters each day, brief quizzes were given before practices to make sure players were keeping up with their reading assignments.

Return To Sender
No easy buckets ... That has been the NIU defensive philosophy and a major reason why the Huskies are second in the MAC in field goal percentage defense (.399) ... The Huskies lead the MAC in blocked shots, 4.73 per game, thanks the tandem of James Hughes and Marcus Smallwood ... A redshirt freshman, Hughes ranks second in the MAC and sixth nationally among freshmen in swats per game (1.99) ... Already with 29 blocks on the season, the Silvis, IL, native has had at least one block in 14-of-15 games and set the NIU freshman record with six blocks in the season-opener against Eastern Illinois (11-22-03) ... Third in the MAC with 1.47 blocks a contest, Smallwood has 21 swats this season and 133 for his career ... Smallwood is fourth all-time at Northern Illinois in career blocks and needs just one more to tie Hubert Register (1991-95) for third with 134 ... As a team, the Huskies have 82 blocks and have eight or more blocks on four separate occasions ... All but two NIU players, Bryson McKenzie and Anthony Maestranzi, have recorded blocks this season.

Northern Illinois Visits The Pro Football Hall of Fame
A lessen in excellence ... That’s what the Northern Illinois men’s basketball team got when it visited the Professional Football Hall of Fame on Jan. 8 ... Prior to a workout in North Canton, OH, at Walsh University, the Huskies stopped by the Hall of Fame to see first hand examples of athletes at the top of their field ... Featured exhibits during the Hall of Fame tour included the actual jersey worn by Walter Payton when he broke Jim Brown’s rushing record in 1984, a collage celebrating 20 years of Monday Night Football and a display of championship rings from each Super Bowl.

Paradise Out Indefinitely
A reoccurring left wrist injury suffered as a high school senior will sideline rookie guard Ryan Paradise for an indefinite amount of time ... A key member of the NIU backcourt, Paradise appeared in all 14 games and averaged 3.4 points and 1.4 rebounds ... While he averaged 14.6 minutes per game on the season, the former Naperville Central standout had averaged 19.3 minutes in his final three games.

Huskies In The Classroom
Their efforts on the basketball court get more attention, but NIU’s efforts in the classroom should not go unnoticed ... When semester grade-point-averages were released last week, the men’s basketball team reached new heights ... In addition to enjoying the highest team GPA of the Rob Judson era, the men’s basketball program had its highest GPA in over 10 years.

Rayhorn Tabbed For IBCA Hall of Fame Induction
One of Northern Illinois’ all-time greats, Allen Rayhorn will be enshrined into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association on April 24 in Normal, IL ... Regarded as one of the school’s top Players of the Century, the 6-foot-9, 202-pound Rayhorn led the Huskies to their first NCAA Tournament in 1982 ... His career numbers of 1,848 points and 1,077 rebounds rank third and second, respectively, in Northern Illinois history.

Free Throws Tell The Tale

If the Huskies have learned anything lately, it is that free throws add up ... NIU is being outshot 368-275 at the line, and face a 70-point season deficit at the charity stripe ... Standing alone, that stat is important, but when six of a team’s eight losses have come by a single-digit margin, the stat becomes paramount ... In those six single-digit defeats, opponents have hit 138-of-192 free throws ... That’s a per game average of 23-of-32 ... Conversely NIU is 63-90 total in those six games, an average of 10.5-of-15 per contest ... When you break the numbers down, NIU is being outscored by 12.5 points per game at the line in its six single-digit defeats.

Free Throws Continued
One positive about the free throw line has been NIU’s recent improvement ... After opening 1-of-8 from the free throw line against Ohio (Jan. 3), the Huskies are shooting 79.4 percent (54-of-68) in the last three and a half games ... NIU finished 15-of-18 from the line against Ohio and was 7-of-9 at Akron (Jan. 10) ... Northern Illinois’ best day at the stripe was at Bowling Green (Jan. 14) when it hit 17-of-21 charity shots (81.0 percent) ... On Wednesday against Eastern Michigan, the Huskies hit 75.0 percent (15-of-20) of their charity shots.

Huskies Road Search Getting Closer
The numbers are improving and the team is getting closer, but the Huskies haven’t quite gotten over their road woes yet ... While they dropped a pair of games at Akron (preseason favorite in the MAC East) and at Bowling Green (preseason runner up in the MAC West), NIU saw its numbers across the board improve ... During a 5-of-6 losing skid in early December, the Huskies averaged 18.5 turnovers and shot just 28.9 percent from three-point range ... In the two road games at Akron and Bowling Green, NIU averaged just 13.5 turnovers and shot 35.1 percent from three-point range ... While the numbers aren’t quite where they need to be, the Huskies are showing improvement and could bust out of this uncharacteristic road slump at any moment.

P.J. = Pretty Jumper
The first half of December was forgettable for P.J. Smith ... NIU’s most creative scorer, Smith had just one double-figure scoring game (17 at Marshall) in the month’s first 19 days ... As a result, his scoring average plummeted from 15.7 ppg. to 9.4 ppg. following a 53-41 loss to San Jose State on Dec. 19 ... Since that game, however, Smith has taken off offensively, reaching double-figures each of the last seven games including 20-point efforts vs. BYU-Hawaii (Dec. 20) and St. Francis (Dec. 30) ... Following a 15-point afternoon against Ohio, Smith exploded for 18 points at Akron and 13 first-half points at Bowling Green ... Most recently, Smith poured in 19 points against Eastern Michigan as his average in the last seven games has elevated to 16.7 points ... During that stretch, the preseason all-MAC selection is hitting .488 percent of his field goals and 43.6 percent of his three-point attempts ... A likely reason for Smith’s early scoring slump was his shot selection, or lack thereof ... During his skid, Smith took just 6.4 shots per game ... In the last seven, Smith is averaging 11.4 attempts.

Byrd Soars Into The Huskie Lineup
A little-used power forward prior to the New Year, junior college transfer Johnathan Byrd has seen increased “PT” during the MAC season ... A strong defensive presence, Byrd gave NIU a defensive lift in the recent road trip to Akron and Bowling Green ... In the last two games, Byrd has set career highs in minutes (14 vs. Akron and 22 vs. Bowling Green) while setting a career high with two blocks against Akron ... Against Bowling Green, Byrd scored a career high tying four points.

Paulsen Adds Versatility To NIU Post

From his five-point performance against Baylor (Dec. 22), to his six-point night at Akron (Jan. 7), freshman Paige Paulsen as seen a steady increase in playing time since the team’s return from Hawaii ... After logging a career high 12 minutes against Cornell College, one more than his season total of 11, Paulsen has played double-figure minutes in two of the last four games, including 10 vs. Akron on Wednesday ... Against the Zips, Pauslen scored a career high six first-half points on 2-of-3 shooting from three-point land.

Paying His Dues, Thompson Sees Increased Playing Time
The consummate team player, Walter Thompson has paid his dues for Northern Illinois in his first three seasons and is seeing increased playing time as a return ... Thompson played in just nine games last season and logged just 41 total minutes ... This season, Thompson has already played in 13 games and is averaging 5.9 minutes an outing ... Against Eastern Michigan, Thompson played a season high 20 minutes, including 15 in the first half ... The last time Thompson logged 20+ minutes in a game was Feb. 23, 2002, against Central Michigan when he played 24.

ESPN, Jay Bilas Show Smallwood The Love
NIU senior forward Marcus Smallwood was named the most underrated/underappreciated player in the Mid-American Conference by ESPN’s Jay Bilas ... Here is what Bilas had to say about Smallwood ... “Smallwood is an outstanding post player who commands defensive attention. He is a terrific rebounder and finisher around the basket, drawing double and sometimes triple teams that open up opportunities for his teammates to make open 3-pointers. To beat Northern Illinois, teams will have to deal with Smallwood (14.3 ppg, 10.9 rpg), but they cannot allow his teammates to piggy-back off of him to have big nights from beyond the arc.”

Huskie Posts Heating Up On Offense
60 percent ... That’s what Marcus Smallwood, James Hughes and Rome Sanders, NIU’s primary post performers, have shot from the field in the last nine games ... The leader of that group is Sanders, who has hit 16-of-25 shots (.640) during that span to raise his season field-goal percentage to .538 ... Right behind Sanders is the 6-foot-11 Hughes ... While he hasn’t missed much all season (.647), Hughes has connected on 19-of-30 shots (.633) in his last nine including 15-of-21 (.714) shooting during a five-game stretch at the end of December ... Based on attempts, the efficiency of Smallwood has been nothing short of amazing over the last nine games ... In hoisting up 105 shots, Smallwood has connected on 61 of those attempts (.580), while maintaining a scoring average of 15.4 points per game ... In his last two games, Smallwood has hit on 17-of-27 shots (.630).

Smallwood Named To Surf N’ Slam All-Tourney Team
After averaging 14.0 points and 10.7 rebounds, Marcus Smallwood was named to the BYU-Hawaii Surf N’ Slam All-Tournament Team in Laie, HI ... The tournament’s top rebounder, Smallwood tied the tournament record with 32 total boards, 12 of which came on the offensive end ... With the award, Smallwood becomes the first Huskie to earn a pair of regular season all-tournament team honors since Rodney Davis did it during the 1987-88 season ... Davis was named to the UTEP MetroMobile and UIC McLendon Classic All-Tourney teams.

Huskie Named Hawkeye-Gazette Challenge MVP
For the first time since the 1990 season, the Iowa Hawkeye-Gazette Challenge (Dec. 5-6) MVP didn’t hail from Iowa City ... Despite falling a game short of the tourney title, Marcus Smallwood was named MVP of the tournament after averaging 16 points and 9.5 rebounds during the two-game gathering ... The last time a non-Iowa player won MVP honors of the Hawkeye-Gazette Challenge, was in 1990, when Bob Harstad of Creighton won the award.

Huskies Hit 1,000 Wins
With its 73-63 win over Ohio on Jan. 3, the Northern Illinois men’s basketball program made history, recording its 1,000th win ... The Huskies currently have a 1,000-939 overall record ... Other milestone wins for NIU include its 500th on Feb. 29, 1964, vs. Wheaton College (83-67) and its 900th win vs. Illinois-Chicago (95-60) in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament on March 3, 1996.

Smallwood Joins NIU 1,000-Point Club
With a jumper at the 7:42 mark of the first half vs. San Jose State (Dec. 19) , Marcus Smallwood became just the 23rd player in Northern Illinois history to score 1,000 points in an NIU uniform ... Now 18th in career scoring with 1,101 points, “Smalls” is just 13 points behind George Bork (1960-63) for 17th on NIU’s career scoring list ... Smallwood became the first Huskie to top 1,000 career points since Leon Rodgers (1998-2002) did it during the 2000-01 season.

Rome Is Burning
During the month of December and now into January, it has been pick-your-poison for opponents when handling Rome Sanders ... After averaging 14.6 minutes, 2.0 points and 3.3 rebounds in November, Sanders has stepped up his game in the last six weeks to become one of the Huskies workhorses in the paint ... During the eight games in December and now into January, Sanders has averaged 6.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19.8 minutes of playing time ... Sanders has also shot 61.0 percent from the floor during that span and has hit 22-of-29 free throws (.758) in the last nine games ... In the Huskies’ most recent outing with Eastern Michigan (Dec. 14) Sanders grabbed a season high 10 boards to go with eight points on 3-of-3 shooting ... Sanders’ 10 rebounds marked the first time someone other than Smallwood has led the Huskies in rebounding this season.

Can You Spare A Dime?
Anthony Maestranzi can as the sophomore is averaging 4.60 assists per game this season, tops on the team and fourth in the MAC ... While the Huskies struggled to take care of the ball earlier this season, Maestranzi has done his job well, dishing out 69 dimes, compared to just 29 turnovers ... In NIU’s 15 games, Maestranzi has had one or fewer turnovers in seven of those contests and has had a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio nine times ... Maestranzi’s 69 assists this season already tops the 51 he had all of last year, when he ranked third on the team ... At his current pace of 4.6 assists per game, Maestranzi would dish out 138 helpers on the year, the second highest single-season assist total in school history ... Jay Bryant had 163 assists during the 1979-80 season ... Maestranzi would also shatter the sophomore assist record of 106 held by current assistant coach Donald Whiteside during the 1988-89 season ... Another impressive statistic for Maestranzi is his lack of turnovers ... Despite being the team’s primary ball-handler and second on the squad in minutes played (29.2 mpg.), Maestranzi is committing less than two miscues a contest, giving him a 2.4:1 assist : turnover ratio.

Hughes Playing Huge
A sweet jumper that stretches to 15 feet, the team’s most consistent free throw shooter and a devastating shot blocker ... Yes, the future is bright for freshman James Hughes ... The most efficient Huskie from the field in his last seven games, 15-of-23 (.652), the 6-foot-11 freshman has seen offensive numbers begin to take off, despite being put on the floor initially because of his defensive ability ... After sitting out the 2002-03 campaign to work on his strength, Hughes leads the Huskies and is second in the MAC in blocked shots with 29 ... Averaging 1.9 blocks per game, Hughes ranks 35th nationally and sixth nationally among freshmen ... Already with nine starts under his belt, Hughes made his collegiate debut in emphatic fashion, blocking an NIU freshman record six shots in the season-opener against Eastern Illinois ... Against Illinois State (Nov. 26), Hughes made his first career start and flourished with career highs in points (11), field goals (4), free throws made (3) and rebounds (6) ... Hughes also played a career high 22 minutes ... In a 54-53 win over rival Illinois-Chicago, Hughes was a perfect 4-of-4 from the floor, scoring nine points, grabbing six boards and blocking two shots ... Also a great free throw shooter, Hughes is fourth on the team at the line at .773 percent (17-of-22).

Chairman of the Boards
Is there a better 6-foot-6 rebounder in the country? ... In a word, No! ... Senior forward Marcus Smallwood has been a machine on the glass this season, averaging 10.2 rebounds a game including 17 in the season-opener vs. Eastern Illinois, 18 more at then-No. 20 Notre Dame and 14 in the MAC home-opener vs. Ohio on Jan. 3 ... In the most recent NCAA statistical rankings, Smallwood was 10th nationally in rebounding and is one of only two players, 6-foot-6 and under, to average double figures on the glass ... Against a Fighting Irish frontline that boasted heights of 6-foot-11, 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-9, Smallwood grabbed 18 rebounds including six on the offensive end of the floor ... Smallwood lost the rebounding war by one to Notre Dame’s Torin Francis, but he was the catalyst for NIU outrebounding the Irish by 10 (53-43).

MAC’s Big Poppa
Marcus “Smalls” Smallwood earned Mid-American Conference Player of the Week honors for the week of Dec. 1 after averaging 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks against No. 20 Notre Dame (Nov. 24) and Illinois State (Nov. 26) ... The 6-foot-6, 215 pound forward opened the week with a 21-point, 18-rebound performance at No. 20 Notre Dame in a 74-65 Fighting Irish win ... Despite facing a frontline that averaged 6-foot-10, 252 pounds, Smallwood was the one standing tall, as he registered season highs in both categories to lead the Huskies ... The senior also added two blocks and a steal against the Irish ... The preseason MAC Player of the Year returned to the court two days later (Nov. 26), to stifle Illinois State’s offensive attack, as he rejected five shots and grabbed a game high nine rebounds ... Although he did score 16 points, it was Smallwood’s effort on the defensive end that paced the Huskies to a 66-55 victory ... During a first half in which the senior got four of his five blocks, the Huskies allowed the Redbirds just 12 points on 4-of-26 shooting (.154 percent) from the floor.

The Frosh, Rookies, Newbies ....
Call them what you will, but don’t call them bashful as NIU’s quartet of freshmen have made an instant impact for the Huskies this season ... Redshirt freshman James Hughes has been the most productive of the newcomers, starting nine games, while averaging 5.5 points and 3.6 rebounds ... While he leads the team in field goal percentage (.647), Hughes has been the most productive on the defensive end of the floor ... The 6-foot-11 rookie is averaging 1.9 blocks per game, second in the MAC and sixth nationally among freshmen ... Mike McKinney has been Mr. Versatility so far this season ... The high-flying shooting guard turned in back-to-back career outings, following up an eight-point performance at Marshall with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting against Cornell College (Dec. 15) ... Currently, McKinney is averaging 3.9 ppg, while his 17 offensive rebounds are fifth on the team and tops among guards ... Prior to being sidelined by a reoccurring wrist injury, Ryan Paradise had come on since Christmas break, averaging 19.3 minutes in his last three games ... Second on the team in free throw percentage (.783), Paradise hit 9-of-11 charity shots to score a career high 11 points in 19 minutes of playing time vs. Ohio (Jan. 3) ... In his more recent outing, Paradise played a career high 22 minutes against Bowling Green ... After being shut out in his first six games, Paige Paulsen broke into the scoring column against Baylor, scoring five points including a trey from the right wing ... Paulsen played key minutes earlier in the week against Akron and hit two first-half treys to bring NIU roaring back from a seven-point deficit.

Smallwood, Smith Garner Preseason Accolades
Prior to the start of the season, both Marcus Smallwood and P.J. Smith earned recognition as two of the top players in the Mid-American Conference ... In addition to being slated to the Preseason MAC Western Division squad, both seniors are being heralded by a number of preseason magazines ... Athlon and the Sporting News both named Marcus Smallwood as its MAC Player of the Year, while Street & Smith’s magazine named him to its All-MAC team ... P.J. Smith also received a number of preseason honors ... In addition to being a preseason All-MAC pick by Street & Smith’s and The Sporting News, Smith was named the MAC’s top NBA prospect and the player with the top instincts in the conference by Street & Smith’s ... Smallwood was also touted as the top shot blocker and the top athlete in the MAC by Street & Smith’s.

Huskies Picked To Win The MAC
On the strength of 38 first-place votes, the NIU Huskies were picked to win the MAC-Western Division over Bowling Green by the Conference Media ... The Huskies were also chosen as the favorite to win the MAC Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament over Miami (Ohio).

MAC West Voting: Northern Illinois (28) 309, Bowling Green (13) 245, Western Michigan (4) 226, Ball State (1) 192, Toledo (1) 130, Central Michigan (1) 128, Eastern Michigan 114
MAC East Voting: Miami-Ohio (21) 247, Akron (17) 240, Kent State (9) 200, Marshall 125, Ohio 103, Buffalo (1) 72
MAC Tournament Voting: Northern Illinois (16), Miami-Ohio (10), Bowling Green (7), Ball State (4), Western Michigan (3), Kent State (2).

Bucking The Trend, Huskies Enjoy Season Of Firsts In 2002-03
The 2002-03 season was a year of firsts for the Northern Illinois basketball program under second-year head coach Rob Judson ... In addition to enjoying the most wins (17) for NIU since the 1995-96 season, the Huskies enjoyed a number of firsts on the road ... With its 72-65 win at Illinois State (Dec. 21) NIU defeated the Redbirds for the first time since Jan. 3, 1981, and for the first time on the road since Feb. 11, 1980 ... NIU’s 63-46 win at Bowling Green stopped a six-game losing skid to the Falcons dating back to Dec. 4, 1996, which was also NIU’s last win at Bowling Green ... NIU’s 72-65 win at Toledo was its first since Feb. 19, 1983 ... NIU also won its second consecutive game at Ball State with a 66-64 decision on Jan. 11 ... The last time NIU won back-to-back games at BSU (1971-72, 1972-73) Billy Harris and Jim Bradley were scoring points in bunches for the Huskies ... That 1972-73 season was also the last time NIU swept a season series from the Cardinals ... The 1982 season was the last time NIU won at Ohio, but the Huskies stopped that drought with a 68-61 win in Athens, OH, (Jan. 15) ... The Huskies made it a clean sweep over the Bobcats for the first time since 1979-80 with an 80-53 win in DeKalb on Feb. 11 ... The Huskies also had its first taste of MAC Tournament success in some time with wins over Buffalo (March 10) and Western Michigan (March 13) in the opening-two rounds ... The last time NIU won a MAC Tourney game was the 1981-82 season, which was also the last time the Huskies reached the MAC semifinals ... NIU went on to win the MAC Tourney that season and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

NIU Makes School History, Receive Votes In Preseason AP Top 25
It’s being there at the end of the season that matters the most, but the Northern Illinois University men’s basketball program made school history with the releasing of the preseason AP Top 25 poll when the Huskies received three votes to finish tied for 48th nationally ... The only Mid-American Conference school to receive votes in the preseason poll, the Huskies are tied with Georgia, Illinois-Chicago, Nevada and Wichita State ... While this is the first time the Huskies have received votes in the AP’s preseason Top 25 poll, the Huskies have gotten votes before during the regular season and in the final AP Top 25 national rankings ... The last time NIU received votes in the Associated Press poll was at the end of the 1990-91 season, when the Huskies got two votes and finished 43rd ... During the course of that season, Northern Illinois ascended as high as No. 31 in the AP poll (Feb. 25) and No. 29 in the USA Today-CNN poll on Feb. 18 ... That year the Huskies accumulated a 25-6 overall record and won the Mid-Continent Conference with a 14-2 mark ... Current head coach Rob Judson was an assistant on Jim Molinari’s staff that season ... Northern Illinois’ highest national ranking came during the 1971-72 season when NIU Hall of Famer Jim Bradley led the Huskies to No. 18 in the AP poll during the regular season. That season Northern Illinois finished 20th in the final AP poll with a 21-4 record.

Huskies Ink Chicago-Area Products To Letters Of Intent
Northern Illinois head coach Rob Judson announced the signing of three student-athletes to letters of intent as Frank Clair of Chicago Leo High School and teammates Zach Pancratz and Craig Reichel of Schaumburg High School signed with the Huskies for the 2004-05 season ... A 6-foot-6 small forward, Clair was a third team Class A all-state selection as a junior, averaging 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds a game ... The Huskies also got a pair of signatures from Schaumburg High School teammates Zach Pancratz and Craig Reichel ... A 6-foot-4 combo guard, Pancratz led Schaumburg in scoring as a junior, averaging 16.8 points a contest while hitting more than two 3-pointers a game ... A versatile power forward, Reichel combines size with a solid perimeter game ... As a junior, the 6-foot-8 post player more than doubled his scoring output, going from 7.7 points per game as a sophomore to 15.9 points last season.

Huskies Add Cyrus Tate To 2004-05 Recruiting Class
The Huskies completed their recruiting efforts with the signing of Cyrus Tate to a National Letter of Intent on Tuesday (Dec. 9) ... A 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward, Tate fills the Huskies’ final available scholarship opening for next season ... Last season as a member of Roy Condotti’s talented 20-8 Homewood-Flossmoor club, Tate averaged 12.5 points and 7.7 rebounds a game as a junior. A consensus Top-25 player in the state of Illinois by Chicago Hoops, Hoop Scoop and High School Elite, Tate gives the Huskies a physical low-post presence that excels on both ends of the floor. While his size and strength allow him to perform on defense, ranks Tate as one of the top five offensive post players in the state ... A four-year member of the varsity squad at Homewood-Flossmoor, Tate turned in a season best 25-point, 12-rebound performance against Proviso East High School last season ... Tate joins Chicago Leo High School small forward Frank Clair and Schaumburg High School teammates Zach Pancratz and Craig Reichel as members of the 2004-05 Northern Illinois men’s basketball recruiting class.



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