Huskies Begin Road Swing at Ohio University Thursday

GO HUSKIES Mike DiNunno continues to factor into the MAC Freshman of the Year consideration.
Mike DiNunno continues to factor into the MAC Freshman of the Year consideration.

Feb. 4, 2009

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DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team (6-13, 2-5 MAC) will resume cross-divisional play Thursday, when the Huskies travel to Ohio (10-10, 3-4 MAC) for the first of two road contests in three days. NIU will be searching for its first Mid-American Conference road win of the season.

The Huskies are coming off last Saturday's 69-61 loss versus visiting Bowling Green. Freshman guard Mike DiNunno led the Huskies with 15 points, while Lee Fisher had a breakout game, setting career-highs in minutes (23), points (9), field goals (4), rebounds (8) and steals (2). Sophomore center Sean Kowal also posted a double-digit scoring output with 12 points. NIU out-scored the Falcons in the paint, 34-18.

Ohio, the MAC's top three-point shooting team, comes into Thursday's contest with a 7-1 record at home. Jerome Tillman is the league's leading scorer (18.7 ppg) and rebounder (8.9). The Bobcats' lone loss at home this season came against Bowling Green on Jan. 24.

NIU (6-13, 2-5 MAC) at Ohio (10-10, 3-4)
Date: Thursday, Feb. 5, 2009
Tip-off: 6 p.m. CST
Location: Athens, Ohio
Arena: Convocation Center (13,080)
Television: None
Radio: Huskie Sports Radio Network
Bill Baker (play-by-play)/Casey Kahler (color)
Flagship: WLBK-AM (1360, DeKalb)

Northern Illinois will be searching for its second-consecutive win over Ohio at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio, after recording an 81-74 victory on Feb. 10, 2007.

The last time the Huskies posted back-to-back wins over a Mid-American Conference team in its home facility was during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 campaigns, when NIU defeated MAC-West foe Eastern Michigan in two-straight decisions at the Convocation Center in Ypsilanti, Mich.

» Northern Illinois and Ohio will be playing for the 42nd time in the all-time series Thursday. The Huskies have won three-of the last five meetings versus the Bobcats, including an 81-74 win in Athens, Ohio, in NIU's last trip to the Convocation Center.
» NIU will be seeking its third MAC win of the season against Ohio, which would equal the Huskies' entire conference win total from the 2007-08 campaign (3-12). The Huskies' 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 1-6 on the road this season, and are winless in away games during Mid-American Conference play. NIU is averaging 63.1 points per game on the road, and has shot 38.6 percent from the field, 29.6 percent from three-point range, and 60.3 percent from the free throw line. Sophomore guard Darion "Jake" Anderson has averaged 17.3 points per game on the road.
» Northern Illinois will be seeking just its fourth win against a MAC-East foe since capturing the 2005-06 West Division championship. The Huskies were 2-6 against teams in the MAC-East in the 2006-07 campaign, and went 1-5 against the East Division in 2007-08. NIU is 0-2 versus MAC-East foes this season.
» Thursday's contest marks the third of a six-game stretch versus all MAC-East opponents. The Huskies will travel to Buffalo on Saturday, before returning home to host Kent State (Feb. 10) and Akron (Feb. 15) to wrap up cross-divisional play.
» Northern Illinois and Ohio are two of the top three-point shooting teams in the MAC. In conference play, the Huskies rank second in the league in three-point percentage (.344), while Ohio enters Thursday's game ranked third overall, at 38.8 percent.

DEKALB, Ill. - Freshman guard Mike DiNunno (15 points) led the Huskies in scoring for the sixth time this season, but visiting Bowling Green broke a 53-53 tie with a commanding 16-8 game-ending run, and secured a 69-61 win over the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (6-13, 2-5 MAC) at the Convocation Center Saturday.

In its third-consecutive Mid-American Conference loss, the Huskies were out-rebounded, 38-29, and finished just 35.7 percent (5-of-14) from the free throw line.

DiNunno's 15 points were a game-high tying output, along with Bowling Green's Nate Miller, who tallied 15 points to go along with nine rebounds. NIU sophomore center Sean Kowal joined DiNunno in double figures with 12 points, and Lee Fisher recorded career-highs in both points (9) and rebounds (8). BGSU had three players in double figures, including Darryl Clements (12 points) and Otis Polk (10).

Northern Illinois, which is tied for fourth in the MAC-West standings, enters Thursday's contest searching for its first conference road win. The Huskies are 4-4 at home, 1-6 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 16.3 points per game and is also leading the team in rebounds (99), field goals (97), free throws (74) and steals (29), while ranking second in assists (42). Mike DiNunno scores 12.7 points per game, has drained a team-best 40 three-point field goals, and is the team leader in assists (53). Sean Kowal averages 10.6 points per game and leads both NIU and the MAC with a 57.7 field goal percentage.

On the defensive side, Anderson (29), DiNunno (25) and Najul Ervin (26) have combined to swipe 80 of the Huskies' 152 steals; while Kowal (1.0 bpg) leads the Huskies, and is tied for sixth 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 65.7 points per game, but have allowed 70.2 opponent points per contest.

NIU's Sean Smith and Darion "Jake" Anderson combined for 35 points in the Huskies' 73-55 loss versus visiting Ohio last season.

Ohio, which was tabbed fourth in the Mid-American Conference East Division at the outset of the 2008-09 season, enters Thursday's game with a 10-10 record, including a 3-4 MAC slate. The Bobcats are coming off last Saturday's 51-44 loss at Ball State. Ohio is 7-1 at home this season, with its lone loss coming in a one-point (52-51) decision versus Bowling Green on Jan. 24.

Forward Jerome Tillman, a preseason All-MAC East selection, leads the MAC in both scoring (18.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.9 rpg), while Justin Orr has also averaged 10.2 points per contest. Michael Allen leads the conference in assists per game (4.10), and has dished out a league-high 82 total assists on the season.

The Bobcats are shooting 42.5 percent from the field, and boast a MAC-best .369 three-point field goal percentage, while ranking second overall in free throw percentage (.713). Ohio has allowed its opponents to shoot 43.8 percent from the field.

DEKALB, Ill. - A strong showing by Ohio in the first half, keyed by seven three-pointers, proved to be the difference in the game, as the Bobcats closed the half on a 31-10 run on their way to the 73-55 Mid-American Conference victory over Northern Illinois at the Convocation Center on Feb. 2, 2008.

Ohio senior forward Leon Williams led all scorers with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Bobcat junior forward Jerome Tillman posted 17 points, while teammate Bubba Walther drained three treys and finished with 15 points and six assists.

NIU forward Sean Smith led NIU with 19 points, while freshman guard Darion "Jake" Anderson added 16 points and eight rebounds.

Ohio shot a blistering 53.6 percent (15-for-28) from the floor in the first half and 46.7 percent (7-for-15) from three-point range. NIU responded with a 32.0 percent (8-for-25) performance from the field and 20.0 percent (2-for-10) from long distance in the opening 20 minutes. The Bobcats forced NIU into 17 turnovers and scored 23 points off the miscues.

Dating back to the 1964-65 season, Ohio owns a 25-16 all-time series advantage versus Northern Illinois. The Huskies are 6-14 in 20 previous meetings versus Ohio in Athens.

Northern Illinois will travel to Cape Girardeau, Mo., to face Southeast Missouri State (3-20, 0-12 OVC) in the ESPNU BracketBuster game at the Show Me Center on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 7:45 p.m. The Huskies will be playing in their fourth road game during the history of the BracketBuster series. NIU and SEMO will be meeting for the first time in the all-time series, but the Huskies own a 49-45 all-time record against foes affiliated with the Ohio Valley Conference.

Darion "Jake" Anderson enters Thursday's game within reach of three single-season milestones. He has 293 points on the season, and is just seven away from equaling 300 points; his 97 field goals place him just three away from securing his 100th field goal of the season, and Anderson has a team-high 99 rebounds, just one carom away from his 100th of the 2008-09 campaign.

Redshirt freshman forward Lee Fisher, who has been the Huskies' first substitution in three games this season, enjoyed a breakout performance against Bowling Green last Saturday. The Dolton, Ill., native recorded career-highs in minutes (23), points (9), rebounds (8) steals (2) and field goals (4).

Northern Illinois has scored less than 60 points in four-of its seven Mid-American Conference games this season, going 0-4 in those contests. Overall this season, the Huskies are 0-6 when failing to reach the 60-point plateau.

Sophomore guard Darion "Jake" Anderson scored a team-high 13 points to go along with an NIU-best eight rebounds at Miami (Jan. 28), marking the sixth time this season he has paced the Huskies in both scoring and rebounds. He has achieved that feat nine times in his career.

Northern Illinois was decisively out-matched on the boards (38-29) against visiting Bowling Green last Saturday (Jan. 31), adding to an ongoing trend this season for the Huskies. When NIU has been out-rebounded by its opponent, the Huskies are 0-10.

Sean Kowal

After re-aggravating a right high ankle sprain Wednesday at Miami (Jan. 28), sophomore guard Michael Patton did not return to the game, and did not play against Bowling Green; he is listed as day-to-day. Meanwhile, sophomore guards Darion "Jake" Anderson and Jeremy Landers had their suspension for violation of team rules lifted, and are expected to return to the NIU lineup against Ohio, after not dressing versus Bowling Green.

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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