DeKALB, IL --- Sometimes when you say "alumni game", the common perception revolves around the over-the-hill gang, oxygen cannisters, overburdened athletics trainers, and AARP cards.
That wasn't the case for the seventh annual Northern Illinois University Men's Basketball Alumni Game Saturday (January 27) morning at the Convocation Center.
Instead, it was more Showtime Huskie Alums. Eat your heart out, Pat Riley.
Glitter. High-style. Mind-boggling individual performances might have been the story of the day. For the record, the Black alumni outlasted the Cardinal quintet by a 97-94 margin thanks to some clutch free-throws in the game's final 45 seconds.
Once again, the Northern Illinois alumni get-together was a Huskie fans' delight: A combined 191 points for both teams, 24 overall three-pointers, eight double-digit scorers, a game-record four slam-dunks, and an unprecedented and magnificient 45-point performance by guard Jay Bates (2001-03).
The six-foot, 187-pound Bates produced 20 points in the first half and 25 more during the second---all on 20 field goals---including five three-pointers. The former 2002-03 Huskie co-captain hit three straight three-pointers in the final 35 seconds for coach Bill Finucane's Cardinal squad. Bates' first two late treys pulled his team within 94-91. But Black guards Carl Armato (1981-84) and Donald Whiteside (1987-91) converted two FTs and one foul shot, respectively, in the last 11 seconds of regulation.
Black guard Rodney Davis (1984-88) contributed 22 points---including five straight markers in a 42-second span on two free throws with 1:27 left and a big-time trey from the left corner at the 0:45 mark. Not to be ignored were the 30-point contribution from forward Tori Hughes (1996-98), 29 points from Whiteside---the No. 1 pick in the alumni game draft, 10 points from swingman Steve McCuiston (1977-81), plus six points and a strong floor game by Armato on head coach Mike Korcek's Black unit.
Guard Andre Williams (1997-98) added 20 points, swingman Al Sewascuik (2000-04) chipped in 15---11 in the final half, and forward Shawn Thrower (1977-81) produced 15 for the Cardinal group.
"Jay (Bates) was unbelievable," said Hughes who also registered an alumni game-record three slam-dunks. "He is so fast. (I) thought I had a couple steals and he went right by me. It's great to come back to school and get to run with my old teammates and the guys who played before me. Donald (Whiteside) runs like he's 21 years old. He is phenomenal. The dunks? Last night, I slept with a Michael Jordan video under my pillow. No, I just had some legs today. It was fun." Williams also recorded a dunk for the Cardinal.
Davis enjoyed the alumni game again and played alongside one of his old college roomies, Whiteside. "This was fun, it always is," Davis said. "Donald and Carl (Armato) made it easy for me today. Jay Bates can really play."
Bates would trade the 45 points for a win. "I'd rather win," said Bates who has averaged 33.5 points-per-game in his last four NIU alumni game outings (2004-05-06-07)---including the previous single-game record 34 markers in 2004. "It was a lot of fun. I look forward to coming back every year. I love Donald and Carl. Wish I had another year of college eligibility."
Thrower gave credit to his new shoes, smiled at the surprise appearance by ex-Northern Illinois teammate Ray Watson (1978-79), and also starred on a Huskie Radio Network halftime interview with color man Casey Kahler. "This was real fun. The whole day. I love it when Jay and Donald get together. What a show. Jay is so quick that he makes me look good out there."
Afterwards, Korcek---also the winning coach in last week's Northern Illinois women's basketball alumnae contest---was seen huddling with his attorney Brad Waller who did make a brief appearance for the Cardinal unit in the second half. "You know," Korcek told the media, "it might be time for Lovie Smith and I to renegotiate our contracts."
Northern Illinois Cardinal & Black Alumni Game boxscore:
NORTHERN ILLINOIS BLACK (97) --- R. Davis 8 3-4 22, T. Hughes 13 1-1 30, S. McCuiston 4 0-0 10, C. Schramm 0 0-0 0, D. Whiteside 10 4-5 29, C. Armato 2 2-2 6. TOTALS 37 10-12 97.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS CARDINAL (94) --- J. Bates 20 0-2 45, M. Padden 0 0-0 0, A. Rohlman 0 0-0 0, A. Sewasciuk 5 2-2 15, W. Thompson 1 0-0 2, S. Thrower 5 0-0 12, A. Williams 8 3-5 20, B. Waller 0 0-0 0. TOTALS 39 5-9 94.
HALFTIME: Black 48, Cardinal 41.
THREE-POINTERS: Black (13) --- D. Whiteside (5), R. Davis (3), T. Hughes (3), S. McCuiston (2). Cardinal (11) --- J. Bates (5), A. Sewasciuk (3), S. Thrower (2), A. Williams (1).