MENS COLLEGE BASKETBALL FINAL: NORTHERN ILLINOIS 67, KENT STATE
KENT, OH --- ESPN bracketbuster committee, please take note: This Northern
Illinois University mens basketball team---that preseason Mid-American
Conference also-ran, according to the so-called experts---may have just
pulled off the biggest upset of the leagues season with a 67-61
victory over No. 38-rated Kent State University Saturday (February 8)
afternoon. The win---NIUs eighth in its last nine games---snapped
an eight-game Golden Flashes winning streak.
Im speechless, said Huskie head coach Rob Judson.
I dont know what to say. Im humbled. Our kids played
so well. They played great defense, they made some big free throws, they
got some big rebounds. Im so happy for them and our staff. Our kids
went out and executed. It is hard to describe when you go on the road
and win a game like this.
Freshman guard Anthony Maestranzi silenced a roaring crowd of 5,716
spectators at KSUs Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center by hitting
both ends of a one-and-one free throw situation with 0:13.1 seconds left
that gave the visitors a 65-61 lead and Judson the best triumph in his
48-game Northern Illinois coaching tenure.
Defending MAC Postseason Tournament Champion Kent State---which made Elite
Eight status in the 2002 National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournamet
with a 30-6 won-lost record last March and began the day at 17-2 and tied
for 38th in this weeks USA Today / ESPN poll---does
not lose often at the MACC facility or in the MAC. The KSU setback marked
only the second loss in nine home games this season and the ninth loss
in the last 77 in the MACC since 1998-99.
Best of all, Judsons Huskies won the showdown of Mid-Am division
leaders and stay in the West top spot for the eighth straight day with
an 8-3 mark in loop play, heading into this Tuesdays (February 11)
7:05 p.m. (CST) test in NIUs new Convocation Center against Ohio
University and the nations No. 1 rebounder in 6-foot-7, 260-pound
The Convocation Center needs to rock Tuesday, Judson added,
overcoming his momentary lapse in thought.
Northern Illinois rallied from early 18-8 and 25-16 deficits in the first
half, only to stay close, and then go on a 12-2 run during the final 5:31
of the opening 20 minutes for a 32-29 lead at intermission. Baskets by
P.J. Smith, Jay Bates, and back-to-back three-pointers by
frosh swingman Todd Peterson pulled the Huskies in front.
We overcame some early jitters and some other adversity, Judson
said. What an atmosphere here. This is a big win for our players
and our staff. We just wanted to contest their (KSUs) shots and
box out on rebounds. We were able to win by making some shots at the end.
We made some big free throws down the stretch to close the game out. Anthony
Maestranzi stepped up and made two big free throws with the crowd going
crazy to seal the victory.
Judsons Northern Illinois quintet did more than just contest Kent
States shots. The Golden Flashes, which led the NCAA in Division
I three-point basketball percentage (.442) prior to the game, could only
convert on 9-of-31 (.290) shots from behind the arch and finished the
afternoon with a season-low .377 overall field-goal percentage on 20-of-53
shots. At the same time, the Huskies shot .568 from the field (25-of-44)
and a clutch 12-of-20 (.600) in the second half. The changing Judson defenses---man-to-man,
plus the 1-2-2 and 2-3 zones---also helped hold Kent States top
scorer, 6-foot-5, 250-pound forward Antonio Gates (21.4 points-per-game
average) to only 12 points and eight field goals attempts.
The game was tied five times in the second half---the last time at 46-all
on a Maestranzi three-point jump shot at the 10:17 mark. Peterson, who
topped Northern Illinois with 17 points and seven rebounds versus Kent,
hit a trifecta from the left wing at 9:34 for a 49-46 advantage with 9:34
that the Cardinal and Black would never lose. Of course, KSU didnt
go down without a fight and pulled within two points three times during
the climatic 7:37 (53-51, 60-68, and 63-61).
Maestranzi canned his second trey with exactly 7:00 remaining and frosh
forward Rome Sanders followed with a right side lay-up off the
Huskie spread halfcourt offense for a 58-51 lead with 6:06
left. Kent State came back within 58-54 on a Gates foul shot and a lay-up
by center Nate Gerwig. Another Gates free throw and then a Eric Haut three-point
bomb at 1:53 offset a Marcus Smallwood lay-up and incensed the
MACC crowd with the hosts now within 60-58.
Northern Illinois senior guard Jay Bates, who bounced back from
a so-so four-point performance in Thursdays (February 6) 70-61 triumph
at Buffalo, scored 14 points at KSU. His one-hand jumper in the paint
restored a four-point lead with 38 seconds on the clock. In a bizarre
situation where referees Randy Drury and Sam Lickliter whistled simultaneous
fouls on two Kent State players, Smallwood---instead of Bates---hit one
of two foul shots in the one-and-one situation at 0:20 for the 63-58 lead.
Four seconds later, KSUs Anthony Wilkins canned a trey and then
Maestranzi capped the W at 0:13.1. Kent is now 17-3 overall
and 10-2 in the Mid-Am East. Haut (22 points) and Wilkins (15 points)
led KSU in scoring.
: Despite the Kent State height advantage, NIU won the battle of the boards,
30-27, and outscored the Golden Flashes in the paint, 30-18. The victory
also marked the Huskies sixth straight on the road this season and
first at Kent State since February 1, 1986 during Kenny Battles
sophomore year. With the five three-pointers this afternoon, Peterson
set a school single-season freshman trey record. The 6-foot-6 Pekin product
now owns 40 for the season---erasing the previous mark (36) set by teammate
Al Sewasciuk in 2000--01. In his last two outings, Peterson owns
nine treys. With his 12 points at KSU, Smallwood passed Randy Fens
(749 career points in 1988-93) and W. L. Moore (750 points in 1962-65)
for the No. 44 spot on the all-time Huskie scoring list with 752 markers.
(For further information, please contact Mike Korcek) -30-