NIU Hosts Western Michigan in Prime Time Saturday Matchup

GO HUSKIES Freshman guard Travon Baker
GO HUSKIES
Freshman guard Travon Baker
GO HUSKIES

Jan. 18, 2013

Game Notes in PDF Get Acrobat Reader

Northern Illinois Huskies (3-12, 1-2 MAC) vs. Western Michigan Broncos (9-7, 1-2 MAC)
Date / Time: Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 / 7 p.m. CT
Site: NIU Convocation Center • DeKalb, Ill.
Radio: WLBK 1360-AM, 98.9-FM in DeKalb, Ill. • WJOL 1340-AM in Joliet, 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: Western Michigan leads 51-29
Last Meeting: March 7, 2012 • WMU 71-54

BATTLE JOINS THE BROADCAST
Former Northern Illinois star Kenny Battle (1984-86) will join Bill Baker on radio Saturday night as a guest color analyst. Battle scored 1,072 points in two seasons as a Huskie and went on to play four seasons in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors.

PROMOTIONS
Saturday is Kids Night at the Convo, the NIU baseball, football, soccer, tennis and volleyball teams will have stations for kids to play at prior to the game. Youth tickets for Saturday’s contest are FREE with the purchase of an adult ticket and the Huskies will hold a post-game autograph session.

In addition, Saturday is also a doubleheader with NIU Gymnastics, who will be competing in Victor E. Court beginning at 5 p.m., against Bowling Green. Admission to the gymnastics meet is free with a ticket to the men’s basketball game.

WHAT’S TRENDING
• Northern Illinois is shooting 73.7 percent (84-of-114) as a team from the free-throw line in the last five games.  
• The Huskies have gone to the free-throw line at least 26 times in each of their three conference games.
• For the first time since Jan. 2, 2012, NIU had four players score in double figures last time out at Ohio. Abdel Nader led the way with 16 points; Keith Gray added 14 while Darrell Bowie and J.J. Cravatta each had 10.
Darrell Bowie is scoring 9.6 points and pulling down 5.0 rebounds while shooting 57.1 percent in five games as a starter. Bowie set a new career-high in scoring four of the five game he started (7 at Washington Dec. 22, 8 vs. UMass Dec. 29, 10 at Miami Jan. 9 and 13 vs. Akron Jan. 12) and then set a new career-high in rebounds at Ohio (7).
Abdel Nader has scored in double figures in 7-of-8 games this season; Nader has scored in double figures in 24 games during his career.  
• 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).
• Keith and Kevin Gray have both played in 46-straight contests; neither has missed a game in their collegiate career.

BOWIE BREAKS OUT IN CONFERENCE PLAY
Darrell Bowie is averaging 11.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 57.9 percent from the field in conference play. Bowie is the leading freshman in the conference in all three categories.
• Overall, Bowie is tied for 20th in the MAC in scoring in conference play and tied for 11th in rebounding.
• Bowie also ranks fifth in field goal percentage and is tied for 10th with 1.7 steals per game during conference play.
• Bowie has scored in double figures in all three conference games, including a career-high 13 points against Akron (Jan. 12).   
• In non-conference play, Bowie averaged 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per contest.

LIVING AT THE LINE
• Northern Illinois has attempted 87 free throws during conference play, an average of 29 per contest, connecting of 62 of those opportunities (71.3 percent).
• In contrast, the Huskies shot 179 free throws in non-conference action, an average of 14.9 trips per game, making 65.4 percent of those opportunities (117 total).
Darrell Bowie (21) and Keith Gray (20) lead NIU in free throw attempts in MAC contests.
• Four Huskies have attempted eight-or-more free throws in conference and are shooting over 80 percent from the charity stripe: Aksel Bolin (87.5 percent), J.J. Cravatta (87.5 percent), Keith Gray (85 percent) and Abdel Nader (80 percent).

AGAINST THE WEST
• After playing its first three conference games against MAC East foes, NIU will face the MAC West for the first time Saturday night.
• NIU is the only school in the MAC West that opened with three games against the Eastern Division.
• The two losses suffered by the Huskies in conference play are to the only remaining unbeaten teams in the MAC (Akron and Ohio).
• Saturday’s opponent, Western Michigan, is the only other school to have also played both Akron and Ohio already in league play.

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 nine more points per game in the second half that the first half while shooting over eight percent better from the field, 10 percent better from three and 6.6 percent better from the free-throw line.
• In the opening 20 minutes this season, NIU is averaging 24.5 points while shooting 33.7 percent from the field, 23.0 percent from three and 63.7 percent from the free-throw line.
• The Huskies have 58 first half assists and 130 first half turnovers.
Abdel Nader and Akeem Springs are tied as NIU’s leading scorer in the first half of games this season, each averaging 4.0 points.
• In the second half this year, NIU is averaging 33.3 points while shooting 41.9 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three and 70.3 percent from the free-throw line.
• NIU has 75 second half assists and 106 second half turnovers.
Abdel Nader is also NIU’s leading second half scorer at 9.9 points.

A LOOK AT THE 2012-13 SEASON
• Freshmen have played 59.8 percent of the minutes this season for NIU; sophomores have added another 23.2 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 1.8 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 tied as the third-least experienced team in the country (1.59) with Boston College, 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 seventh in the MAC, tops among freshmen, with 1.7 steals per game. In conference games, Baker is averaging 2.7 assists per game, tied for 11th-best in the conference.
• At 9.4 points per game, Akeem Springs ranks 26th in the MAC in scoring, second among freshmen.
• In conference games, Darrell Bowie is tied for 20th in scoring (first among freshmen) at 11.0 points per contest and tied for 11th in rebounding (also first among freshmen) at 5.7 rebounds per game.
• Bowie is also tied for sixth in league play shooting 57.9 percent from the field and tied for 10th with 1.7 steals per contest.
Kevin Gray is tied for 10th in the conference pulling down 2.1 offensive rebounds per contest.
Sam Mader is tied for 15th in the MAC with 0.7 blocks per game.
Keith Gray ranks eighth in the conference in free-throw percentage in league games at 85 percent; Gray is also tied for 22nd in scoring during league play with 9.7 points per contest.
Aksel Bolin is shooting 60 percent from 3-point range in league play, the fifth-best mark in the MAC, and 87.5 percent from the charity stripe, seventh-best in the league.  
Abdel Nader is tied for 17th in scoring in conference games at 12.0 points per contest. He also ranks 11th in free throw percentage at 80 percent.
• The Huskies lead the conference in offensive rebounding averaging 13.4 offensive boards per game.
• NIU is second in defensive rebounding percentage (71.6 percent) and fifth in offensive rebounding percentage (35.4 percent).

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 WESTERN MICHIGAN
• The Broncos come to DeKalb with a 9-7 overall record, 1-2 in conference play. Western Michigan opened the season 6-1 before dropping six of its last nine contests.
• Three Broncos score in double figures led by 11.6 points per game from Nate Hutcheson.
• Western Michigan leads the MAC in both rebounding offense (39.0) and rebounding defense (31.3). The Broncos pull down 73.3 percent of their opponents missed shots, best in the MAC, and 37.6 percent of their own misses, third-best in the conference.
• WMU head coach Steve Hawkins is the second-longest tenured head coach in the MAC, behind Buffalo’s Reggie Witherspoon.

ALL-TIME SERIES
• The Broncos lead the all-time series against the Huskies, 51-29.  
• Western Michigan has won six-straight in the series, including all three meetings last season.
• The Broncos ended NIU’s season last year with a 71-54 victory over the Huskies in the second round of the MAC Tournament.
• NIU’s last victory over Western Michigan was an 87-77 victory in DeKalb on Jan. 13, 2010. The Huskies hold an 18-16 edge in meetings played in DeKalb.

OHIO RECAP
• Northern Illinois fell to 1-2 in MAC play with an 81-63 loss at Ohio on Wednesday.
• The Bobcats used a 20-0 run in the first half to build a lead that NIU was unable to overcome.
• After trailing by 27 at the half, the Huskies outscored Ohio, 45-36, in the second half.
• The 45 second half points for NIU was the most for the Huskies in a half this season.
• NIU attempted 32 free throws in the contest, the most for the Huskies during Mark Montgomery’s tenure.
• Four Huskies scored in double figures (Abdel Nader 16, Keith Gray 14, Darrell Bowie 10 and J.J. Cravatta 10) for the first time this season.
• Keith Gray’s 14 points was a season-high, Gray scored 14 points in just 14 minutes of action.
• J.J Cravatta netted a career-best 10 points, including 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Darrell Bowie grabbed a career-best seven rebounds.

AKRON RECAP
• Northern Illinois fell to Akron, 68-53, to drop to 1-1 in conference play.
Darrell Bowie scored a career-high 13 points and tied a career-best with five rebounds. Bowie has set a new career scoring high in each of the last four games.
Abdel Nader scored 10 points; he has scored in double figures in six-of-seven games played this season.
• After shooting 69.2 percent from three against Miami, the Huskies shot just 7.1 percent (1-of-14) from beyond the arc against the Zips, a low for NIU during the Mark Montgomery era.
• NIU and Akron combined for 46 fouls and shot a combined 59 free throws.
Travon Baker dished out three assists with no turnovers against the Zips. Baker has had one turnover or less in each of the last four games.
Keith Gray went 6-of-6 from the free-throw line against Akron; Gray is 11-of-12 from the line in conference play.

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.