Huskies to Host Eastern Illinois on Alumni Day

GO HUSKIES Freshman guard Daveon Balls
GO HUSKIES
Freshman guard Daveon Balls
GO HUSKIES

Feb. 22, 2013

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Northern Illinois Huskies (5-19, 3-9 MAC) vs. Eastern Illinois Panthers (8-20, 5-10 OVC)
Date / Time: Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 / 3 p.m. CT
Site: NIU Convocation Center • DeKalb, Ill.
Radio: WLBK 1360-AM, 98.9-FM in DeKalb, Ill. • WRMN 1410-AM in Elgin, Ill. • Huskie All-Access
Live Video: NIUHuskies.com
Live Stats: NIUHuskies.com
Twitter Updates: @NIUscores
All-time Series: Northern Illinois leads 45-43
Last Meeting: Nov. 20, 2011 • EIU 67-55

NIU HOSTS ALUMNI DAY
In addition to the BracketBuster contest against Eastern Illinois, Saturday will also be the annual Huskie Alumni Day, featuring the Alumni Game at 12:30 p.m. The doors at entrance two of the NIU Convocation Center will open at 11:30 a.m., for the Alumni Game, featuring many greats from the Huskie past.

WHAT’S TRENDING
• Northern Illinois steps out of conference for the final time when it hosts Eastern Illinois in the 2013 Ramada Worldwide BracketBusters. The Huskies are competing in the BracketBusters for the ninth time.
• NIU is beginning its final homestand of the season, the Huskies will play their next three at home before finishing the regular season with back-to-back road games.
Travon Baker dished out a career-best five assists last time out at Western Michigan. Baker has eight assists and just two turnovers in the last two games.  
Daveon Balls has a 1.8 assist/turnover ratio over the last nine games.
Darrell Bowie is making a case for inclusion on the MAC All-Freshman Team. Bowie is averaging 6.9 points and 3.5 rebounds per game during conference play, ranking seventh in scoring among conference freshmen in league play and sixth in rebounding. Bowie entered league play averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Travon Baker is shooting 85.7 percent from the free-throw line over the last eight games.
J.J. Cravatta is averaging 4.4 points per game over the past 10 contests, playing an average of 14.3 minutes per game. Prior to that time, Cravatta was averaging just 1.5 points per contest.
Abdel Nader has scored in double figures in 12 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 55-straight contests; neither has missed a game in their collegiate career.

BRACKETBUSTER HISTORY
• Northern Illinois is playing its ninth all-time game in the BracketBuster, the Huskies have a 1-7 all-time record.
• This will be the second time the Huskies have faced Eastern Illinois in the BracketBuster, NIU fell at EIU, 73-70, in the 2010 edition of the event.
• The Huskies will be facing a member of the Ohio Valley Conference for the fourth time in the last five BracketBusters. NIU defeated SE Missouri State in 2009, fell at Eastern Illinois in 2010 and lost on a buzzer-beater at SIU Edwardsville last season.

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 six games, Darrell Bowie is shooting 53.3 percent from the field. Prior to that stretch, Bowie was shooting 41.9 percent for the season.
• In that same six game stretch, Keith Gray is shooting 61.9 percent from the field, Gray shot 36.5 percent from the field in the first 18 games of the year.
Kevin Gray is shooting 56.3 percent in the last three games. He was shooting 38.9 percent through the first 21 games this season.
• As a trio, Bowie and the Gray twins are shooting a combined 58.7 percent from the field in the last three contests, combining for 22.7 points per contest, seven points better than their collective season scoring average.
• 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 22 total minutes in the last four contests.

OH SO CLOSE
Northern Illinois has lost four of its last five games by single-digits, losing the four contests by an average of 5.5 points per game. The Huskies have led three of those contests with four minutes or less remaining. Here is a closer look at those games:
• Against Toledo (Feb. 2), NIU led by a pair, 58-56, with 3:13 to go before the Rockets came back to close out a 69-64 win.
• In Buffalo (Feb. 9), the Huskies trailed by 11 with 4:27 left before storming back to pull within three with less than 20 seconds to play. NIU had the ball and got a look at a triple to tie, but the shot didn’t go and the Bulls escaped with a 59-54 win.
• Against Ball State (Feb. 13), NIU led by one, 45-44, with 3:30 to play but was edged by the Cardinals, 56-52.
• At Western Michigan (Feb. 16), the Huskies did not trail the entire second half and led by eight, 58-50, with four minutes to play until the Broncos scored the final 16 points of the contest to defeat NIU, 66-58.

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 LOOK AT THE 2012-13 SEASON
• Freshmen have played 55.3 percent of the minutes this season for NIU; sophomores have added another 27.0 percent of the minutes (a total of 82.3 percent by underclassmen).
• The team leading at halftime has won all but two games played by NIU this season. The lone exceptions were at Miami (Jan. 9) when the Huskies and RedHawks were tied at the half, NIU won that contest and at Western Michigan (Feb. 16), when NIU led at the half but the Broncos came from behind to win.
• 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 (1.62).
• See page five for a complete chart of the nation’s least experienced teams.

IN THE MAC RANKINGS
Travon Baker is eighth in the MAC, tops among freshmen, with 1.5 steals per game.
Abdel Nader ranked 15th in scoring in conference games at 12.5 points per contest and is 13th in rebounding at 5.7 boards per game. Nader is also tied for 13th at 1.3 steals per game.
Darrell Bowie is seventh in scoring among freshmen in league games (6.9 ppg) and sixth in rebounding among conference rookies in league play (3.5 rpg).  
• NIU is second in the MAC in offensive rebounds, grabbing 12.8 per contest. The Huskies are second in defensive rebounding percentage at 70.8 percent and second in defensive rebounding percentage in conference play at 71.5 percent.  

GETTING TO THE LINE
• Northern Illinois has attempted 274 free throws during conference play, an average of 22.8 per contest.
• In contrast, the Huskies shot 179 free throws in non-conference action, an average of 14.9 trips per game.
Darrell Bowie (53) 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 EASTERN ILLINOIS
• Eastern Illinois enters Saturday’s contest with an 8-20 overall record, the Panthers are 5-10 in Ohio Valley Conference play, currently fourth in the OVC West Division.
• The Panthers split their last two games against OVC powers, defeating Murray State, 79-70, before falling to Belmont, 80-49.
• Sherman Blanford leads three Panthers scoring in double figures, Blanford is averaging 10.8 points per contest, Blanford is also the leading rebounder for the Panthers at 6.5 boards per game.
• Jay Spoonhour, the son of longtime collegiate head coach Charlie Spoonhour, is in his first season as head coach at Eastern Illinois.  

ALL-TIME SERIES
• Northern Illinois leads the all-time series against Eastern Illinois, 45-43.
• The two most recent meetings between the Huskies and Panthers came in a BracketBuster matchup in 2010 and the return game last season, EIU won both of those contests.
• NIU’s last victory over Eastern Illinois came on Dec. 11, 2004, a 76-70 victory in Charleston.
• The Huskies and Panthers have split the last 10 meetings, 5-5.

WESTERN MICHIGAN RECAP
• Western Michigan escaped with a 66-58 victory over NIU last Saturday, it was WMU’s seventh-straight home win over Northern Illinois.
• The Broncos trailed by eight with four minutes left before scoring the final 16 points of the game.
Aksel Bolin scored a team-high 10 points, his eighth double figure scoring game of the season and 15th of his career.
Darrell Bowie tied a career-high with seven rebounds and Mike Davis set a new career-high with five rebounds.
Travon Baker dished out a career-high five assists.
• NIU shot 54.2 percent from the field in the first half, including 83.3 percent from behind the 3-point line.
• The NIU bench outscored Western Michigan’s bench, 28-13.

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.