The Magnificent Seven? Depleted Huskies cruise past MAC West leading Bowling Green 72-61

GO HUSKIES
GO HUSKIES

GO HUSKIES
February 23, 2005

Huskies Push Home Winning Streak To Five, Topple MAC West Leading Bowling Green 72-61

Box Score

DeKalb, IL – Northern Illinois’ Convocation Center is quickly becoming a graveyard for Mid-American Conference foes. The Huskies reiterated that fact on Wednesday, as they used an outstanding defensive effort and got 11-of-19 three-point shooting to earn an impressive 72-61 win over the MAC West Division leading Bowling Green Falcons.

Despite trailing 19-8 midway through the opening half, Northern Illinois regrouped in grand fashion, outscoring the Falcons 24-6 through the rest of the period to take a 32-25 lead into the break. NIU then tightened its grip defensively to push its lead to 20 (49-29) before coming away with the 11-point triumph.

“I can’t say enough about the heart this team has shown game-in and game-out,” head coach Rob Judson said. “They are a resilient group that just loves to play together. We’ve been on the road to Toledo, OH, on the road to Ypsilanti, MI, and on the road to Dayton, OH, and come back to the Convocation Center and play the top team in the MAC West. That’s a tough chore and our guys just kept fighting. I love coaching this team.”

Northern Illinois’ starting backcourt of Cory Sims (17 points), Anthony Maestranzi (16 points) and Mike McKinney (15 points) paced the Huskie offensive effort, combining for 48 of the team’s 72 points, while hitting a combined 9-of-12 shots from bonus distance. John Reimold led Bowling Green with 22 points and eight rebounds, but was one of just two BGSU players to surpass double figures. Josh Almanson scored 14 points on the night, 12 of which came in the opening half.

“They have two of the MAC’s top scorers,” Judson said. “When you look at the MAC West, there are a lot of talented seniors. Reimold and Almanson are two of them. We did a nice job on Reimold in the first half (five points) and did well on Almanson in the second (two points). They will get their points, they are good basketball players that average 18 points a night. We just had to stay positive and keep battling away.”

Trailing 19-8 at the 9:51 mark, head coach Rob Judson used a :30-second timeout to regroup his young squad. After watching the visiting Falcons hit 6-of-10 shots to open the contest to build that double-figure lead, Judson put NIU into a 3-2 zone, which ultimately turned the tide. Of course the Huskies thrived on the offensive end during the stretch as well, scoring 24 points over the final 9:31, but it was NIU’s resilient defensive that forced the MAC’s top shooting team (49.7 percent) into 2-of-10 shooting the rest of the half to flip that 11-point deficit into an eight-point lead.

James Hughes cut the margin into single digits with a pair of free throws, before a McKinney lay-in, a Sims jumper and the second of four Maestranzi treys brought NIU storming back (21-17). A three-point play by Northern Illinois’ lone senior, Johnathan Byrd, cut the deficit to 21-20 (6:29), before Byrd’s second hoop, a nifty fast-break lay-up gave the Huskies a lead they would never relinquish. Back-to-back treys by McKinney and Maestranzi quickly built NIU’s lead to seven (30-23) at the 3:02 mark and set the stage for the huge MAC West victory.

“We did a nice job of rotating our zone and recognizing what each of their (Bowling Green’s) strength’s were,” Maestranzi said of NIU’s zone. “We forced them into a few difficult shots and rebounded well from there on.”

Northern Illinois kept the defensive pressure on in the second half to extend its margin to as many as 20 (49-29) by the 12:13 mark. Although the Huskies enjoyed a 24-6 run to close the opening half, technically the run could be considered a 41-10 spurt, as they outscored BGSU 17-4 to open the second half. McKinney used a trademark ally-oop dunk to fuel the rally, which also saw the 6-foot-4 sophomore hit two more treys en route to a career high three, three-pointers. Byrd added four points as well and freshman Zach Pancratz buried a triple from the wing to cap the surge.

A senior laden team with two of the MAC’s top-three scorers (Almanson and Reimold), Bowling Green battled back to cut the margin to four (53-49) at 4:48. The Falcons had an opportunity to slice into the lead even further, but the junior Maestranzi stole the ball away from Perrick Robinson and connected on his fourth three-pointer of the evening to push the lead back to seven (56-49) at 4:22.

“We were running on fumes down the stretch, and our team showed a gutsy performance to pull it out,” Judson said.

Todd Peterson then hit a pair of free throws and Sims drained his second triple of the game to push NIU’s lead back to 11 (61-50) and send a vocal crowd of 2,502 home with a win.
With the win, NIU improved to 10-15 overall and 6-10 in MAC action, while Bowling Green fell to 16-8, 9-6 in MAC play.

For the first time since Dec. 1 (Bradley) and Dec. 4 (Akron), Northern Illinois will enjoy back-to-back home games when it hosts the Ball State Cardinals on Sunday (Feb. 27) at 1:05 p.m. It’s Alumni Day at the Convocation Center as well, with the Huskies hosting the fifth annual Alumni Game at 10 a.m.


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