Huskies Head to Oxford to Take on Host Miami Wednesday

GO HUSKIES DiNunno scored a game-high 25 points against CMU
DiNunno scored a game-high 25 points against CMU

Jan. 27, 2009

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DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team (6-11, 2-3 MAC) will look to pick up its first Mid-American Conference road win of the season, when the Huskies head to Oxford, Ohio, to take on host Miami University Wednesday beginning at 6 p.m. CST.

The Huskies are 1-5 on the road this season, including an 0-2 MAC road slate. The RedHawks (10-7, 3-2 MAC), picked second in the preseason MAC-East poll, are 4-2 at Millett Hall this season.

Northern Illinois (6-11, 2-3 MAC) at Miami University (10-7, 3-2)
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2009
Tip-off: 6 p.m. CST
Location: Oxford, Ohio
Arena: Millett Hall
Television: None
Radio: Huskie Sports Radio Network
Bill Baker (play-by-play)/Casey Kahler (color)
Flagship: WLBK-AM (1360, DeKalb)

Northern Illinois is just 1-17 all-time against Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, dating back to the 1969-70 campaign.

The Huskies' lone win at Millett Hall took place on Feb. 21, 1981, in a 75-63 win over the RedHawks.

However, NIU's recent setbacks against host Miami have been by slim margins. The RedHawks' last three wins over the Huskies at Millett Hall have been by a combined 11 points.

» Northern Illinois and Miami University will be playing for the 35th time in the all-time series Wednesday. The RedHawks have recorded 11-consecutive wins over the Huskies in Oxford, Ohio.
» NIU will be seeking its third MAC win of the season against Miami University, which would equal the Huskies' entire conference win total from the 2007-08 campaign (3-12). Last Tuesday's 72-52 win over MAC-West rival Eastern Michigan marked NIU's sixth overall win, tying last season's 6-22 mark.
» The Huskies are 1-5 on the road this season, with an 0-2 Mid-American Conference road slate. Dating back to the 2006-07 season, NIU is 2-15 in it last 17 MAC road games.
» Northern Illinois has enjoyed a balanced scoring attack in its six road games this season. Darion "Jake" Anderson has averaged a team-high 18.0 points per game in those contests, while Mike DiNunno has chipped in 10.7 points per game. Sean Smith and Sean Kowal have averaged 9.7 and 9.3 points per game, respectively. As a team, NIU has averaged 65.0 points per road game, but surrendered 73.0 points for its road opponents.
» Wednesday's contest kick starts a six-game stretch versus all MAC-East opponents. Three of those contests will take place on the road, and three games are scheduled at the Convocation Center in DeKalb, Ill. The Huskies will take on visiting Bowling Green Saturday at 4:05 p.m., before making the Ohio (Feb. 5)-Buffalo (Feb. 7) road swing. NIU will wrap up the cross-divisional stretch at home against Kent State (Feb. 10) and Akron (Feb. 15).
» The Huskies and Miami University are two of the most efficient offensive teams in the MAC. In conference games only, Miami (.467) and NIU (.465) are the respective first and second-ranked teams in the league in field goal percentage.
» One glaring statistical difference between Northern Illinois and Miami is the teams' conversion rate from three-point range. The Huskies lead the MAC in three-point field goal percentage (.397), while Miami (.257) ranks 12th in the category.

DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team (6-11, 2-3 MAC) set season-lows in points (45) field goals (16), field goal percentage (.348), free throw percentage (.304), rebounds (26) and blocks (1), and freshman guard Mike DiNunno (25 points) was the lone Huskie in double figures, as Central Michigan (5-12, 2-3) cruised to a 58-45 win over NIU at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon.

The Huskies' 16 field goals was their lowest single-game mark since converting 16 shots from the field against visiting Ohio on Jan. 17, 2006, and the NIU's 45 points was the lowest output since the 2007-08 opener at Northern Iowa (Nov. 9, 2007). DiNunno's 25 points led all scorers, while CMU was paced by Marcus Van's 14 points and 20 rebounds.

Jeremy Allen and Jacolby Hardiman each chipped in 10 points for the Chippewas. NIU's Darion "Jake" Anderson and Sean Kowal scored just a combined four points in the setback.

Northern Illinois (6-11, 2-3 MAC), which is tied for second in the MAC-West standings, enters Wednesday's contest searching for its first conference road win. The Huskies are 4-3 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 16.5 points per game and is also leading the team in rebounds (91), field goals (92), free throws (72) and steals (28), while ranking second in assists (41). Mike DiNunno scores 13.0 points per game, has drained a team-best 38 three-point field goals, and is the team leader in assists (47). Sean Kowal averages 10.7 points per game and leads both NIU and the MAC with a 57.9 field goal percentage.

On the defensive side, Anderson (28), DiNunno (22) and Najul Ervin (23) have combined to swipe 73 of the Huskies' 136 steals; while Kowal (1.12 bpg) leads the Huskies, and ranks third in the MAC, in blocks per game. NIU has shot 43.4 percent from the field, and held its opponents to a 45.1 field goal percentage. The Huskies are averaging 66.8 points per game, but have allowed 69.7 opponent points per contest.

Miami University (10-7, 3-2 MAC), which was picked second in the preseason Mid-American Conference poll, enters Wednesday's game in an exactly that spot, one game behind division leader Buffalo. The RedHawks are 4-2 at home this season, including a 64-54 overtime win over visiting Akron on Jan. 10.

Senior Michael Bramos, a preseason all-MAC selection, leads the RedHawks in scoring at 17.6 points per game; he is joined in double figures by Kenny Hayes (13.9 ppg). Tyler Dierkers is averaging a team-high 7.2 rebounds per contest, while Eric Pollitz has dished out a team-best 51 assists on the season.

The RedHawks are shooting 43.3 percent from the field, with a 42.2 defensive field goal percentage. Miami has out-rebounded its opponents, 32.5-31.8, and shoots nearly 71 percent (.705) from the free throw line as a team. The RedHawks are coming off Saturday's 76-64 loss versus visiting Buffalo in a first-place MAC-East contest.

The Huskies and Miami University are two of the most efficient offensive teams in the MAC. In conference games only, Miami (.467) and NIU (.465) are the respective first and second-ranked teams in the league in field goal percentage.

DEKALB, Ill. - Miami University guard Kenny Hayes and senior forward Tim Pollitz combined for 44 points, as the visiting RedHawks picked up a 66-51 Mid-American Conference victory over Northern Illinois at the Convocation Center on Jan. 30, 2008.

Hayes finished with a game-high 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting, while Pollitz notched 19 points and seven rebounds on the evening. NIU guard Darion "Jake" Anderson led the Huskies with 16 points, while senior forward Michael Hart added eight points and a season-best seven rebounds.

Miami brought its trademark defense to the Convocation Center, as the RedHawks held NIU to a 35.8 percent (19-of-53) effort from the field, and a 7.7 percent (1-for-13) performance from three-point range. The Huskies, who entered the contest shooting 75 percent from the free throw line in MAC play, were only able to knock down 57.1 percent (12-of-21) of their attempts.

Dating back to the 1968-69 season, Miami University owns a decisive 22-12 all-time series lead against Northern Illinois. The RedHawks have rolled off four-straight wins, and seven-of-10 overall, including last season's 66-51 win (Jan. 30, 2008) in DeKalb, Ill.

Northern Illinois was decisively out-matched on the boards (39-26) against visiting Central Michigan last Saturday (Jan. 24), adding to an ongoing trend this season for the Huskies. When NIU has been out-rebounded by its opponent, the Huskies are 0-9.

Through five Mid-American Conference contests, Northern Illinois finds itself in the top half of the league in several categories. In MAC games only, the Huskies lead the league in three-point field goal percentage (.397), while ranking second in field goal percentage (.462). The Huskies also rank in the top-five of the MAC in scoring defense (58.4 ppg, 3rd), field goal percentage defense (.408, 5th), three-point field goal percentage defense (.281, 5th), rebounding margin (+2.0, t-4th) and assists per game (12.80, 3rd).

Darion "Jake" Anderson, Sean Smith and Sean Kowal enter this week's slate of Mid-American Conference games within reach of achieving some significant milestones. Anderson has 91 rebounds on the season, and is nine caroms away from becoming the first NIU player to reach 100 rebounds this season. Smith, which is just 31 points shy of equaling his entire scoring output from last season, enters Wednesday's game with 281 career points, and is 19 away from equaling 300 points for his career. Kowal has 182 points in his first season in a Huskie uniform, and is 18 points away from becoming the third NIU player this season to reach 200 or more points.

Sean Smith has started the last six games

In the last five games, Northern Illinois has posted three-of its best-five team shooting performances of the 2008-09 campaign, including last Tuesday's season-high 62.8 percent mark from the field (versus Eastern Michigan). The effort added to a familiar trend with NIU, and across college basketball: when teams shoot the ball well, it usually translates to success. When the Huskies shoot 50 percent or better from the field, they are a perfect 4-0 this season, and 6-1 under head coach Ricardo Patton in his one-plus year at the helm.

Continuing to nurse a right high ankle sprain, sophomore guard Michael Patton did not play against Central Michigan last Saturday. Patton, the son of head coach Ricardo Patton, has missed three of the last five games due to the ongoing injury.

Darion "Jake" Anderson (280 points), Mike DiNunno (221) Sean Kowal (182) and Sean Smith (125) have all eclipsed the 100-point plateau this season. All four players are averaging at least 22.7 minutes per game.

Northern Illinois enters Wednesday's game as the 12th-ranked team in the MAC in free throw percentage (.586). The Huskies have shot just a combined 51.0 percent (49-of-76) from the free throw line in five conference games this season.

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 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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