NIU Set for Saturday Showdown at Western Michigan

GO HUSKIES Freshman wing Darrell Bowie
GO HUSKIES
Freshman wing Darrell Bowie
GO HUSKIES

Feb. 15, 2013

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Northern Illinois Huskies (5-18, 3-8 MAC) at Western Michigan Broncos (15-9, 7-4 MAC)
Date / Time: Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 / 5 p.m. CT (6 p.m. ET)
Site: University Arena • Kalamazoo, Mich.
Television: SportsTime Ohio (also available on ESPN3)
Radio: WLBK 1360-AM, 98.9-FM in DeKalb, Ill. • WRMN 1410-AM in Elgin, Ill. • Huskie All-Access
Live Stats: WMUBroncos.com
Twitter Updates: @NIUscores
All-time Series: Western Michigan leads 52-29
Last Meeting: Jan. 19, 2013 • WMU 71-34

WHAT’S TRENDING
Antone Christian scored a season-high 14 points last time out, including a career-high four 3-point field goals. Christian had scored 16 total points in the previous nine games before Wednesday’s contest against Ball State.
• Saturday’s contest at Western Michigan begins NIU’s second look at each of its five MAC West foes. The Huskies only remaining game not against the MAC West is next Saturday’s BracketBuster against Eastern Illinois.
Travon Baker is shooting 85.7 percent from the free-throw line over the last seven games.
J.J. Cravatta is averaging 4.6 points per game over the past nine contests, playing an average of 14.7 minutes per game. Prior to that time, Cravatta was averaging just 1.5 points per contest.
Daveon Balls has a 1.7 assist/turnover ratio over the last eight games.
Darrell Bowie is making a case for inclusion on the MAC All-Freshman Team. Bowie is averaging 7.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game during conference play, ranking sixth in scoring among conference freshmen in league play and eighth in rebounding. Bowie entered league play averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Abdel Nader has scored in double figures in 12-of-16 games this season; Nader has scored in double figures in 28 games during his career, including six 20-plus games.
• 10 different players have started at least one game for the Huskies with Antone Christian becoming the 10th player to make a start, making his first start of the year at Miami (Jan. 9).
• Keith and Kevin Gray have both played in 54-straight contests; neither has missed a game in their collegiate career.

FINDING THEIR STRIDE
Northern Illinois’ post players have found their shooting touch in recent games, with each of them shooting much better percentages during a recent stretch.
• Over the last five games, Darrell Bowie is shooting 53.8 percent from the field. Prior to that stretch, Bowie was shooting 41.9 percent for the season.
• In that same five game stretch, Keith Gray is shooting 64.7 percent from the field, Gray shot 36.5 percent from the field in the first 18 games of the year.
Kevin Gray is shooting 55.6 percent in the last two games. He was shooting 38.9 percent through the first 21 games this season.
• NIU’s fourth primary post play, Sam Mader, is still working his way back from a shoulder injury that saw him miss five games. Mader has played 14 minutes in the last three contests.

RESPONDING TO ADVERSITY
Northern Illinois has done an excellent job of responding following tough games all season long; consider the following four contests and the game immediately following:
• NIU lost at Dayton on Dec. 1, 60-43, scoring just five points in the first half. The Huskies responded from a difficult first half by outscoring Dayton in the second half, 38-34. NIU then went on to win its next game against SIU Edwardsville (Dec. 5), 65-54, shooting 52 percent from the field in the contest.
• Seattle defeated Northern Illinois, 75-48, on Dec. 19. The Huskies answered with a strong performance against Washington (Dec.22), trailing by six with less than two minutes to play before falling, 67-57.
• After a 71-34 home loss against Western Michigan (Jan. 19), NIU earned its first win at Central Michigan (Jan. 23) since 2006 with a 74-61 victory over the Chippewas. The Huskies shot 48.8 percent from the field in the contest, including 52.6 percent from 3-point range.
• NIU scored four first half points in a 42-25 loss at Eastern Michigan (Jan. 26). The Huskies answered that performance with a 67-65 win over Kent State (Jan. 30). Northern Illinois never trailed against the Golden Flashes, shooting 46.8 percent from the field and 53.8 percent behind the arc.

A TALE OF TWO HALVES
• The Huskies season thus far has been a tale of two halves with NIU finding greater success after halftime.
• The Huskies are averaging eight more points per game in the second half that the first half while shooting over seven percent better from the field, four percent better from three and three percent better from the free-throw line.
• In the opening 20 minutes this season, NIU is averaging 23.8 points while shooting 32.4 percent from the field, 25.5 percent from three and 64.5 percent from the free-throw line.
• The Huskies have 92 first half assists and 188 first half turnovers.
Abdel Nader is NIU’s leading scorer in the first half of games this season, each averaging 4.7 points.
• In the second half this year, NIU is averaging 31.7 points while shooting 40 percent from the field, 29.7 percent from three and 67.5 percent from the free-throw line.
• NIU has 107 second half assists and 154 second half turnovers.
Abdel Nader is also NIU’s leading second half scorer at 9.0 points.

A LOOK AT THE 2012-13 SEASON
• Freshmen have played 55.5 percent of the minutes this season for NIU; sophomores have added another 26.9 percent of the minutes (a total of 82.4 percent by underclassmen).
• The team leading at halftime has won all 22 games played by NIU this season. The one exception was at Miami (Jan. 9) when the Huskies and RedHawks were tied at the half, NIU won that contest.
• With victories over Miami and Kent State, NIU recorded multiple wins against the MAC East Division for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
• Preseason All-MAC selection Abdel Nader played his first game of the season at UW Milwaukee (Dec. 7) after a season-opening suspension for violation of team rules.
• Northern Illinois returns its top-five scoring letterwinners and top-six rebounders from a season ago.
• Nine of the 14 players making up the Huskie roster this season are underclassmen.
• Of the five upperclassmen on NIU’s roster, one will sit out this season following a transfer (Pete Rakocevic) and another had never played a Division I game until this season (Brandon Hayes).
• NIU made its first appearance in the ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, playing Valparaiso at 7 a.m. CT on Tuesday, Nov. 13. The Huskies were one of two MAC schools, along with Kent State, that will appear in the marathon.
• The Huskies will play 10 teams that appeared in postseason play a season ago: Valpo (Horizon League regular season champs, NIT), Dayton (NIT), Milwaukee (CBI), Washington (Pac-12 regular season champs, NIT Final Four), UMass (NIT Final Four), Akron (MAC regular season champs, NIT), Bowling Green (CIT), Buffalo (CIT), Kent State (CIT) and Ohio (NCAA Sweet 16).

THE EXPERIENCE TRACKER
• Developed by StatSheet.com, “The Experience Tracker” looks at the experience per minute played by every team in the country.
• Each team’s number is generated by taking the sum of minutes each player plays, multiplied by their class (1-freshmen, 2-sophomores, 3-juniors, 4-seniors) divided by the total of team minutes.
• Northern Illinois is currently the third-least experienced team in the country (1.63) behind Texas (1.42) and Dartmouth (1.61).
• See page five for a complete chart of the nation’s least experienced teams.

IN THE MAC RANKINGS
Travon Baker is seventh in the MAC, tops among freshmen, with 1.5 steals per game.
Abdel Nader is tied for 12th in scoring in conference games at 13.1 points per contest and also tied for 12th in rebounding at 5.9 boards per game. Nader ranks 10th in steals at 1.5 per contest.
Darrell Bowie is sixth in scoring among freshmen in league games (7.0 ppg) and eighth in rebounding among conference rookies in league play (3.3 rpg).  
• NIU leads the MAC in offensive rebounds, grabbing 13.0 per contest. The Huskies are second in defensive rebounding percentage at 70.9 percent (behind only Western Michigan) and first in defensive rebounding percentage in conference at 72 percent.  

GETTING TO THE LINE
• Northern Illinois has attempted 250 free throws during conference play, an average of 22.7 per contest.
• In contrast, the Huskies shot 179 free throws in non-conference action, an average of 14.9 trips per game.
Darrell Bowie (49) leads NIU in free throw attempts in MAC contests.
Daveon Balls leads the Huskies in free throw shooting in conference play, connecting at a 76.9 percent clip.  

ABOUT WESTERN MICHIGAN
• The Broncos enter Saturday’s contest with a 15-9 overall record, 7-4 in conference play and 8-1 at home this season.
• Four Broncos scored in double figures, led by Shayne Whittington at 12.7 points per game. Whittington also leads Western Michigan at 8.7 rebounds per contest.
• Western Michigan is the leading rebounding team in the MAC, pulling down a league-best 38.1 rebounds per contest while allowing their opponents a conference-low 30.6 rebounds per game.

ALL-TIME SERIES
• Western Michigan leads the all-time series against NIU, 52-29.
• The Broncos have won six-straight in the series, including a 71-34 win earlier this season in DeKalb (Jan. 19).
• NIU’s last win in the series came on Jan. 13, 2010, an 87-77 victory in DeKalb.
• The last time the Huskies won in Kalamazoo was March 4, 2006 (74-59); NIU has dropped six-straight at Western Michigan since.
• In the previous meeting this season, Kevin Gray led NIU in scoring with 13 points. It is the only time in his career that Gray has led the Huskies in scoring.

BALL STATE RECAP
• NIU was edged at home, 56-52, by Ball State this past Wednesday.
• Neither team led by more than five points in the second half.
• The Huskies held Ball State to just 26.1 percent shooting in the second half, including just 8.3 percent from behind the 3-point line.
• The Cardinals shot 76.9 percent from the free-throw line; they entered the contest shooting 62.7 percent from the line.
Antone Christian scored a season-high 14 points, including a career-best four 3-pointers.
Darrell Bowie recorded his fourth double-figure scoring game of the season with 11 points.
Kevin Gray tied a career-high with nine rebounds, including six offensive boards.
• The NIU bench outscored Ball State’s, 23-7.

BUFFALO RECAP
• Northern Illinois fell at Buffalo, 59-54, this past Saturday. The Huskies haven’t won in Buffalo since 2003.
• The Huskies had a chance to tie with 14 seconds left but saw a 3-pointer rim out.
• NIU shot 61.1 percent (11-of-18) from the field in the first half.
Abdel Nader led the Huskies with 13 points, Nader played just 19 minutes due to foul trouble.
Daveon Balls led NIU with seven rebounds, one shy of his career high. Balls also had a team-best four assists.
• NIU shot 78.6 percent (11-of-14) from the free-throw line, but attempted 11 less free throws than Buffalo.
• The Huskie bench outscored that of Buffalo, 21-4.

BREAKING A 32-YEAR HEX
• With its 72-61 victory at Miami on Jan. 9, Northern Illinois snapped a 13-game losing streak in Oxford, Ohio. NIU’s last road victory against the RedHawks came on Feb. 21, 1981.
• The Huskies entered the game at Miami with a 1-19 record all-time in Oxford.
• The victory over Miami gave NIU a 1-0 start in conference play for the first time since 2009-10 when the Huskies won at Ball State in the league opener.
• Having broken the losing streak at Miami, NIU’s longest conference road losing streak is now six, at Buffalo. The last Huskie victory in Buffalo came on Feb. 6, 2003.

ANOTHER STREAK BITES THE DUST
• After snapping a 13-game losing streak at Miami (Ohio) in the conference opener, NIU snapped another road losing streak at Central Michigan.
• NIU’s victory in Mt. Pleasant on Jan. 23 was its first at Central Michigan since a 49-43 victory on Jan. 26, 2006.
• The win snapped a six-game losing streak on the road against the Chippewas.

A CONVO FIRST, AND FIRST SINCE 2003
• Northern Illinois broke another streak in conference play with its 67-65 victory over Kent State on Jan. 30. The Huskie win snapped an 11 game losing streak to Kent State.
Abdel Nader recorded his first career double-double with a career-high-tying 26 points and a career-best 11 rebounds against the Golden Flashes. Nader hit a pull-up, 18-foot jumper with 2.2 seconds left to win the game for NIU.
• The victory was NIU’s first against Kent State since, Feb. 8, 2003, when NIU earned a 67-61 win at Kent State.
• The win marked the first time the Huskies have defeated the Golden Flashes in the NIU Convocation Center. NIU’s last home win against Kent State was a 64-52 triumph on Jan. 3, 1998, at NIU’s former home, Chick Evans Fieldhouse.


 

 

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