Huskies Travel to MAC-East Leading Buffalo Saturday

GO HUSKIES Michael Patton
Michael Patton

Feb. 6, 2009

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DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team (6-14, 2-6 MAC) will look to snap its season-long four-game losing skid Saturday, when the Huskies take on Mid-American Conference East Division leading Buffalo (15-5, 7-1 MAC) at Alumni Arena beginning at 1 p.m.

The Huskies are coming off Thursday's 89-59 loss at Ohio. Darion "Jake" Anderson scored a team-high 17 points, marking the 12th time this season the defending MAC Freshman of the Year has paced NIU in scoring. The 30-point setback marked the Huskies' largest margin of defeat this season.

Buffalo is 7-2 at home this season, and has rolled off seven-consecutive conference wins. The Bulls, tabbed sixth in the preseason MAC-East poll conducted by the league's media association, leads the conference in scoring offense (67.6 ppg), three-point field goal percentage (.394), rebounding margin (+4.2), assists per game (13.75), assist/turnover ratio (1.29) and offensive rebounds (13.00 rpg).

NIU (6-14, 2-6 MAC) at Buffalo (15-5, 7-1)
Date: Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009
Tip-off: 1 p.m. CST
Location: Buffalo, N.Y.
Arena: Alumni Arena (6,100)
Television: None
Radio: Huskie Sports Radio Network
Bill Baker (play-by-play)/Casey Kahler (color)
Flagship: WLBK-AM (1360, DeKalb)

Sophomore guard Michael Patton made his return to the Northern Illinois lineup Thursday at Ohio, and contributed 11 points, including two three-pointers, in 16 minutes of action off the bench.

Patton was sidelined for the Toledo, Ball State and Central Michigan games with a high right ankle sprain, and was limited to just a combined 19 minutes against Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Miami, while continuing to nurse the injury.

» Northern Illinois and Buffalo will be playing for the 24th time in the all-time series Saturday. The Bulls have won six-of the last seven meetings, including four-straight in Buffalo, N.Y.
» NIU will be seeking its third MAC win of the season against Buffalo, 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 1-7 on the road this season, and are winless in away games during Mid-American Conference play. NIU is averaging 62.6 points per game on the road, and has shot 38.5 percent from the field, 46.3 percent from three-point range, and 62.0 percent from the free throw line. Sophomore guard Darion "Jake" Anderson has averaged 17.3 points per game on the road.
» Dating back to the 2006-07 season, Northern Illinois is 4-30 in its last 34 road games. Seventeen of those losses have come versus Mid-American Conference foes.
» 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 0-3 versus MAC-East foes this season.
» Saturday's contest marks the fourth of a six-game stretch versus all MAC-East opponents. After today's contest, the Huskies will return home to host Kent State (Feb. 10) and Akron (Feb. 15) to wrap up cross-divisional play. NIU is 4-4 at home this season.
» In Northern Illinois' 89-59 loss at Ohio University Thursday, sophomore guard Darion "Jake" Anderson led the Huskies in scoring with 17 points, and also tallied his 100th field goal and 100th rebound of the season. Anderson also became the first NIU player to eclipse 300 or more points during the 2008-09 campaign.

ATHENS, Ohio - Ohio University used a dominating 20-0 run mid-way through the first half to build a 20-point halftime advantage, and never looked back in an 89-59 win over the visiting Northern Illinois men's basketball team at the Convocation Center in Athens, Ohio, Thursday night. The 30-point margin of defeat was NIU's largest such setback this season.

Mid-American Conference leading scorer and rebounder Jerome Tillman led all scorers, pacing the Bobcats with 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including a 9-for-10 effort from the free throw line. Justin Orr (16 points) and Kenneth Van Kempen (12) also tallied double-digit scoring outputs for Ohio.

NIU was led by Darion "Jake" Anderson's 17 points, including 15 in the second half. Michael Patton chipped in 11 points, and Mike DiNunno added 10, including the first eight points of the game.

The Huskies shot a season-best 83 percent (10-of-12) from the free throw line, but the Bobcats countered with an 87.5 percent effort from the charity stripe. Ohio had 28 more attempts from the free throw line than did NIU. NIU has now lost a season-high four-consecutive games. NIU head coach Ricardo Patton was ejected from the game with 11:38 remaining after picking up his second technical foul.

Northern Illinois, which is tied for fourth in the MAC-West standings, enters Saturday's contest searching for its first conference road win. The Huskies are 4-4 at home, 1-7 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 (105), field goals (103), free throws (79) and steals (29), while ranking second in assists (43). Mike DiNunno scores 12.6 points per game, has drained a team-best 42 three-point field goals, and is the team leader in assists (55). Sean Kowal averages 10.2 points per game and leads both NIU and the MAC with a 57.6 field goal percentage.

Darion "Jake" Anderson led the Huskies in scoring with 17 points at Ohio, and also tallied his 100th field goal and 100th rebound of the season. Anderson also became the first NIU player to eclipse 300 or more points during the 2008-09 campaign.

On the defensive side, Anderson (29), DiNunno (25) and Najul Ervin (27) have combined to swipe 81 of the Huskies' 157 steals; while Kowal (0.95 bpg) leads the Huskies in blocks per game. NIU has shot 42.6 percent from the field, and held its opponents to a 45.4 field goal percentage. The Huskies are averaging 65.3 points per game, but have allowed 71.2 opponent points per contest.

Buffalo, which was tabbed sixth in the Mid-American Conference East Division at the outset of the 2008-09 season, enters Saturday's contest atop the division, one game ahead of second-place Miami. The Bulls are coming off Wednesday's 56-55 win over Central Michigan, improving their home record to 7-2 this season. Buffalo's two home setbacks were versus No. 1 UConn and Niagara.

Junior guard Rodney Pierce ranks eighth in the MAC in scoring (14.5 ppg), while Calvin Betts (10.9) and Greg Gamble (9.2) also rank in the top-30. Betts enters Saturday's contest as the league's seventh-best rebounder (6.6 rpg), and Gamble's 5.2 rebounds per game rank 16th overall. He also averages 3.8 assists per game, the third-highest mark in the MAC this season.

The Bulls lead the MAC in scoring offense (67.6 ppg), three-point field goal percentage (.394), rebounding margin (+4.2), assists per game (13.75), assist/turnover ratio (1.29) and offensive rebounds (13.00 rpg).

DEKALB, Ill. - A deadly combination of Buffalo guard Andy Robinson and a season-high 29 turnovers for Northern Illinois proved to be the difference as the visiting Bulls picked up their first Mid-American Conference victory of the season with the 89-81 win over the Huskies at the NIU Convocation Center on Feb. 5, 2008.

Robinson was 13-for-18 from the field and 8-for-10 from three-point range to finish with a game-high 35 points. The Bulls scored 35 points off the Huskie miscues. Robinson was one of five Bulls' players in double-figures followed by Max Boudreau (14 points), Calvin Betts (11 points) and 10 points apiece from Byron Mulkey and Sean Smiley.

NIU guard Jarvis Nichols finished with a season-high and team-best 22 points. Senior forward Shaun Logan added 16 points and nine rebounds, while teammate Darion "Jake" Anderson posted his fourth consecutive double-figure contest with 13 points.

The Huskies finished with a season-best 45 rebounds, besting their previous high of 44 set against Bowling Green (1/27/08). NIU was solid from the free-throw line, as it drained a season-best 24-of-30 (80.0 percent) charity shots.

Dating back to the 1965-66 season, Northern Illinois owns a 13-9 all-time series advantage against Buffalo. The Huskies are 4-8 in 12 previous meetings versus the Bulls in Buffalo, N.Y. NIU's last win at Alumni Arena was on Feb. 6, 2003.

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.

Freshman center Michael Fakuade, a recruited walk-on, has seen his playing time elevate during Mid-American Conference play, and he had a standout performance on the boards at Ohio Thursday. In just nine minutes of action, Fakuade tore down a team-best six rebounds. Fakuade is averaging 8.0 minutes per game over the last three contests, after not appearing in seven games during the non-conference slate.

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.

Anderson scored a team-high 17 points at Ohio

Northern Illinois was decisively out-matched on the boards (38-29) against visiting Bowling Green (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.

Through 20 games, Northern Illinois' won-loss fate has been heavily dependent on its success during the opening 20 minutes of the game. When the Huskies lead at halftime, they are 5-2 on the season; when NIU trails at intermission, it is just 1-12.

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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