February 15, 2003
BASKETBALL FINAL: NORTHERN ILLINOIS 70, EASTERN MICHIGAN 68 (OVERTIME)
YPSILANTI, MI --- Just what do you call this overachieving and Mid-American
Conference West Division-leading Northern Illinois University mens
basketball team? The Miracle Huskies? The Cinderella Boys? The MAC Road
Of course, second-year,
not-to-jump-to-rash-conclusions-in-mid-February-mindset Northern Illinois
head man Rob Judson might not like this suggested answer: How about The
After rallying from
a six-point deficit in the final 6:51 of regulation, forcing an extra
session, and beating Eastern Michigan University, 70-68, in overtime Saturday
night (February 15) before 3,263 spectators in its own Convocation Center,
Judsons quintet started stacking up the supporting evidence with
five regular-season games remaining.
By winning in the
Eagles nest, Northern Illinois improved to 14-9 overall and 10-3
in the league, won its seventh consecutive road game, notched its sixth
straight W against Eastern Michigan, and produced the programs
tenth victory in its last 11 outings. Judson, who has seen his club go
10-2 during 2003, cannot explain the success in tangible terms.
Our guys play
with such unbelievable heart, Judson said afterwards. I dont
know how to gauge this team. Our team togetherness is outstanding. Tonight,
we overcame a lot of obstacles again. It leaves me speechless.
We knew it would
be an absolute battle from start to finish, Judson added. We
knew it would come down to the wire. Im really proud of the team
and getting away with this win. Eastern Michigan is a good basketball
team. You can go all down the line. Jay Bates. Mike Morrison fighting
at the end. Marcus Smallwood who throws his heart over the rim and then
goes after it. How about Al Sewasciuk coming off the bench and getting
proud of the way that our guys played in overtime. We came up with some
big offensive rebounds, then Mike Morrison got a big stop for us. In regulation,
we had the game under control a bit at 52-44 and then the next thing you
know Eastern Michigan is on top 58-52. We fought hard to get back in it
and we made some great stops to send it into overtime.
No. 1 on the Huskie
hero list would be Smallwood, the 6-foot-6 junior forward who contributed
his 11th point-rebound double double of the season with a
team-high 18 points and 13 rebounds, but more importantly, tallied 12
of his 18 during the final 25 minutes and all six Northern Illinois points
during OT crunch time. Smalls scored on power moves on back-to-back
possessions to start the extra session and pull the visitors into a 68-64
lead with 3:38 left. The Elgin High School product also grabbed three
key rebounds in the last five minutes that helped seal the deal.
EMU forward Markus
Austin canned a three-point jumper at the 3:08 mark to cut the lead to
68-67. Smallwood pushed it back to three, 70-67, by converting two foul
shots with 2:44 left on the Convocation Center scoreboad clock. The hosts
JaQuan Hart misfired on a trey attempt and Smallwood wrapped up that rebound
with 2:30 left.
Coach Jim Boones
Eagles fought back within 70-68 on a foul shot by John Bowler at 1:57.
Morrison rebounded Bowlers second free throw miss. Thanks to back-to-back
offensive boards by Morrison and Smallwood, Northern Illnois would keep
the ball for three consecutive possessions that lasted 94 seconds. Bates
could not connect on a trey and Eastern Michigans Steve Pettyjohn
produced the defensive board with 32 ticks remaining and fed the ball
to Hart whose shot in the paint was deflected by Morrison with two seconds
left. Bates, who tallied 13 of his 17 points in the opening stanza, then
corralled his career-high ninth rebound. Pettyjohn would lead four twin-digit
EMU scorers with 16 points.
In the box score,
it appeared that NIU guard P. J. Smith struggled, scoring only five points
on 1-of-8 shooting from the floor. But the 6-foot-4 junior produced two
of the most important points of the evening by making both ends of a one-and-one
free throw situation with 0:18 left in regulation and tying the game at
64. Pettyjohn missed a trey at the buzzer.
capped a 12-6 Huskie rally in the last 6:51 of the second half. Eastern
Michigans Ricky Cottrill put his team ahead, 58-52, on a breakaway
lay-up after a Northern Illinois turnover. The Eagles had produced 14
unanswered points to erase a 52-44 NIU advantage. With 3:22 left, two
Ryan Prillman foul shots lifted EMU into a 61-55 lead. Again, Judsons
troops rallied within, 61-60, behind two Smallwood charity tosses, plus
a Todd Peterson trifecta. Pettyjohns old-fashioned three-point play
on a basket and free throw at 2:14 moved the hosts to a 64-60 lead. Smallwoods
dunk with 46 seconds left sliced the deficit to 64-62. Smith then got
fouled by Cottrill on a defensive rebound at the 18-second mark.
The game was tied
eight times---including a 37-all deadlock at intermission. Eastern Michigan
led most of the opening half---opening a 27-18 bulge on a Hart three-point
jump shot at the 9:29 mark. Northern Illnois stayed within range despite
the fact that the Eagles canned their first nine attempts from the floor.
kept the MAC West lead by a half a game over Central Michigan which beat
Toledo, 66-64. Eastern Michigan, which fell to 10-11 overall and 4-8 in
the Mid-Am West, lost only for the second time in 11 home games this season.
For the Huskies, the ten MAC triumphs equaled the schools all-time
best in the league (10 MAC wins in 1976-77, 10 in 1980-81, and 10 in 1985-86).
The 14 Northern Illinois victories represent the most by the program since
1995-96 in the 20-10 season that culminated in a National Collegiate Athletic
Association tourney appearance under coach Brian Hammel.
(For further information,
please contact Mike Korcek)