Huskies Return Home to Host Eastern Michigan Tuesday

Mike DiNunno

Jan. 19, 2009

NIU-EMU Game Notes in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team (5-10, 1-2 MAC) returns home Tuesday to host Mid-American Conference West Division rival Eastern Michigan (3-14, 1-2) at the Convocation Center beginning at 7 p.m. The Huskies will be searching for their sixth overall win, and fourth home victory of the season.

NIU is coming off Saturday's 71-52 loss at West Division preseason favorite and unbeaten Western Michigan. The Huskies trimmed a 17-point halftime deficit to eight points in the second half, but were unable to draw any closer. For the first time this season, Sean Kowal led the Huskies in scoring, contributing a team-high 14 points to go along with six rebounds.

EMU, picked to finish second in the MAC-West preseason poll, is coming off Saturday night's 69-57 loss at Toledo. The Eagles, who are playing without preseason All-MAC selection Carlos Medlock, are 0-7 on the road this season.

The Huskies and Eagles will meet again on March 4, in Ypsilanti, Mich., to complete the annual home-and-away series.

Northern Illinois (5-10, 1-2 MAC) vs. Eastern Michigan (3-14, 1-2)
Date: Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009
Tip-off: 7 p.m. CST
Location: DeKalb, Ill.
Arena: Convocation Center
Television: None
Radio: Huskie Sports Radio Network
Bill Baker (play-by-play)/Casey Kahler (color)
Flagship: WLBK-AM (1360, DeKalb)

Freshman guard Mike DiNunno (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben) continues to make a strong case for Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year candidacy at the mid-way point of the regular-season.

Entering Tuesday's game against EMU, DiNunno ranks tops among all MAC freshmen in the following categories: scoring (12.9 ppg), free throw percentage (.714), three-point field goals per game (2.25) and minutes per contest (30.60). DiNunno trails just EMU freshman L.J. Frazier in assists per game (2.87).

» Northern Illinois and Western Michigan will be playing for the 70th time in the all-time series Tuesday. The Huskies own a 27-9 record against the Eagles in DeKalb, Ill.
» NIU will be seeking its sixth win of the season against Eastern Michigan, which would equal the Huskies' entire win total from the 2007-08 campaign (6-22, 3-12 MAC).
» The Huskies are 3-2 at home this season, with a 1-0 MAC home slate. In its five games at the Convocation Center, NIU is averaging 74.8 points per game, has shot nearly 48 percent (.479) from the field, and over 46 percent (.464) from three-point range.
» Northern Illinois scored only 52 points at Western Michigan Saturday, and has averaged just 53 points per game over the last two Mid-American Conference contests. The Huskies, ranked second in the MAC in scoring offense (67.9 ppg), are 0-5 this season when scoring less than 60 points.
» Tuesday's contest begins an end-of-month stretch that will see NIU play three-of its next four league games at home. The Huskies will face MAC-West foe Central Michigan Saturday afternoon, before traveling to Miami (Ohio) on Jan. 28, and hosting Bowling Green (Jan. 31) to finish January's conference slate.
» NIU and Eastern Michigan will not face off again until the final week of MAC play. The Huskies visit the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Mich., on March 4, before wrapping up the regular-season at Toledo March 8. NIU will then head to Cleveland for the MAC Tournament, March 10-14.
» After allowing its non-conference opponents to score 78.8 points per game, NIU has given up just 60.3 points through its first three MAC tilts. The Huskies allowed a season-low 51 points in their league-opening win over Toledo (Jan. 10), and surrendered just 60 points at Ball State (Jan. 13); but allowed 71 points on 14 three-pointers at Western Michigan Saturday.

The Huskies' .629 all-time winning percentage versus Eastern Michigan is the largest margin of any other Mid-American Conference foe.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team put three starters in double figures, but host Western Michigan used a 17-point halftime lead to hold off a second-half Huskie rally, and the Broncos cruised to a 71-52 win at University Arena Saturday afternoon to remain unbeaten in Mid-American Conference play.

The Broncos shot a blistering 14-of-28 (.500) from three-point range in the game, and had four players post double-digits in scoring, led by Derek Drews' 17 points. NIU held MAC fourth-leading scorer David Kool to just 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting, but also saw Michael Redell (15 points) and Andre Ricks (11) combine for an 8-for-13 effort from the field.

Sophomore center Sean Kowal scored a team-high 14 points, 12 in the second-half, to lead NIU's offensive output. Sophomore guard Darion "Jake" Anderson and senior forward Sean Smith each added 11 points, while freshman Mike DiNunno chipped in nine points to go along with a team-high four assists.

Northern Illinois (5-10, 1-2 MAC), which is tied for third in the MAC-West standings, enters Tuesday's contest searching for its second-consecutive conference home win. The Huskies are 3-2 at home, 1-5 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 17.5 points per game and is also leading the team in rebounds (87), field goals (85), free throws (69) and steals (26), while ranking second in assists (38). Mike DiNunno scores 12.9 points per game, has drained a team-best 33 three-point field goals, and is the team leader in assists (43). Sean Kowal averages 10.6 points per game and leads both NIU and the MAC with a 58.3 field goal percentage.

On the defensive side, Anderson (26), DiNunno (19) and Najul Ervin (20) have combined to swipe 65 of the Huskies' 121 steals; while Kowal (1.3 bpg) leads the Huskies, and ranks third in the MAC, in blocks per game. NIU has shot 42.9 percent from the field, and held its opponents to a 45.3 field goal percentage. The Huskies are averaging 67.9 points per game, but have allowed 71.7 opponent points per contest.

Eastern Michigan, which was tabbed second in the Mid-American Conference West Division at the outset of the 2008-09 season, enters Tuesday's game with a 3-14 record, including a 1-2 MAC slate. The Eagles are coming off Saturday night's 69-57 loss at Toledo.

Sophomore forward Brandon Bowdry, the current MAC-West Player of the Week, leads the Eagles with 16.1 points per game, while Justin Dobbins has scored 9.8 points per contest. Seniors Zane Gay (10.0 ppg) and Tyler Jones (12.0 ppg) have both averaged double-figures in scoring through three conference games.

The Eagles are shooting 41.7 percent from the field, and have allowed their opponents to shoot 43.2 percent. Eastern Michigan has been out-rebounded by its opponents, 36.1-34.4. The Eagles have played the entire season without the services of senior point guard Carlos Medlock, a preseason All-MAC pick. Medlock has been sidelined with a foot injury.

YPSILANTI, Mich. - Eastern Michigan rolled out to an early 27-6 lead, behind seven three-pointers, and never looked back as the host Eagles earned the 82-63 Mid-American Conference victory over Northern Illinois at the Convocation Center on March 9, 2008.

EMU point guard Carlos Medlock led all scorers with 23 points, while forward Justin Dobbins came off the bench and tallied 20 points. EMU guard Jesse Bunkley chipped in 11 points, while backcourt mate Jarred Axon added 10 in the victory.

Medlock and Bunkley each converted three trifectas on the afternoon, helping the Eagles shoot 50 percent (9-of-18) from beyond the arc. As a team, EMU shot 46.2 percent (24-of-52), while the Huskies knocked down 42.4 percent (25-of-59) of their attempts.

NIU senior forward Shaun Logan tied a season-high with 20 points, followed by 12 points from guard Darion "Jake" Anderson and 10 points from forward Sean Smith.

The loss in the MAC's regular-season finale gave the Huskies the No. 11 seed in the following week's MAC Tournament in Cleveland.

Dating back to the 1926-27 season, Northern Illinois owns a 44-26 all-time series lead versus Eastern Michigan. The Eagles have won three-of the last four contests, including last season's (Jan. 16, 2008) 65-61 win at the Convocation Center. The Huskies' .629 winning percentage versus the Eagles is the largest margin of any other Mid-American Conference foe.

While it was not the most glaring statistic when scanning the final box score, Northern Illinois was edged in total rebounds at Western Michigan Saturday (34-33), adding to an ongoing trend this season for the Huskies. When NIU has been out-rebounded by its opponent, the Huskies are 0-8.

The Ninth Annual Cardinal and Black / Varsity Club Northern Illinois University Men's Basketball Alumni Game will precede the Huskies' home game against Central Michigan Saturday (Jan. 24).

After suffering a mild concussion at Ball State last Tuesday (Jan. 13), redshirt freshman Lee Fisher did not travel to Western Michigan last weekend, and missed his first game of the season. He participated in practice on both Sunday and Monday, and will be available for Tuesday's game against the Eagles.

Darion "Jake" Anderson (263 points), Mike DiNunno (193) Sean Kowal (159) and Sean Smith (111) have all eclipsed the 100-point plateau this season. All four players are averaging at least 21.1 minutes per game. DiNunno's 193 points places him just seven points away from becoming the second NIU player this season to score 200 or more points.

Kowal had 14 points and six rebounds at WMU

The Ninth Annual Cardinal and Black / Varsity Club Northern Illinois University Men's Basketball Alumni Game will precede the Huskies' home game against Central Michigan Saturday (Jan. 24). Tip-off from the Convocation Center is set for 10 a.m., and alumni that RSVP will begin checking in at 9:30 a.m. Non-registered alumni wishing to participate should contact Shelley Binegar at (815) 753-1923 as soon as possible. The annual "draft" to select the personnel for both teams will take place Thursday.

Northern Illinois enters Tuesday's game as the 12th-ranked team in the MAC in free throw percentage (.603). The Huskies have shot just a combined 54.9 percent (28-of-51) from the free throw line in three conference games this season.

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. Through three MAC contests, however, a significantly improved defensive effort has been prevalent. The Huskies enter Tuesday's game ranked third in the MAC in field goal percentage defense (.390), fifth in scoring defense (60.7 ppg) and third in defensive rebounds (24.67 rpg).

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 58.3 field goal percentage, and Smith is the MAC leader in three-point field goal percentage, at 53.8 percent.

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.



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