Lifts NIU To Sixth Consecutive Home Win, Pours In 26 In 70-67 Win
Over Ball State
DeKalb, IL -
Todd Peterson poured in 26 points on a school-record tying 13-of-13
free throw shooting performance to lift Northern Illinois to a 70-67
home win over Mid-American Conference West Division rival Ball State
Sunday (Feb. 27) afternoon in DeKalb.
The victory was Northern Illinois' sixth consecutive at home and
tied an NIU Convocation Center record for most consecutive victories.
The home win was also the sixth consecutive in league play and pushed
NIU's 2004-05 MAC homecourt record to 7-1, the best start to a league
slate at home in school history.
"We had a great homecourt advantage today," head coach
Rob Judson said about the season-best crowd of 3,815. "They
really got into that contest and pushed us over the top. I really
appreciate the folks coming out today to support us."
While Peterson scored half of his 26 points at the line (13-of-13),
the junior power forward did a little bit of everything to lift
NIU to the three-point win. In addition to grabbing six boards,
the 6-foot-8 Pekin, IL, native blocked a shot, handed out an assist
and recorded a career high four steals. He was also one of three
Huskies to top the 30-minute mark in playing time and finished with
3-of-5 shooting from three-point range.
"Todd (Peterson) made as many free throws today as he did in
either his freshman or sophomore seasons," Judson said. "I
think we are seeing evidence that he is becoming a more complete
player out there. He can still shoot the ball well from the perimeter
and by making a couple of early jump shots, that really opened up
some driving lanes for him."
Northern Illinois fought off a couple of late Ball State rallies
in the second half, but never lost its poise or its lead down the
With the Huskies leading 39-33 at the break, the Cardinals quickly
cut into the NIU lead on back-to-back jumpers by Julien Mills and
Peyton Stovall. The leading scorer for Ball State with 22 points,
Stovall kept the visitors close by hitting 6-of-8 three-pointers,
but it wasn't enough, as the Huskies responded with an 11-0 run
of their own to push the lead to a game-high 13 points (50-37).
Four quick points by Peterson and back-to-back lay-ups by Johnathan
Byrd and Cory Sims started the surge, which was capped by an Anthony
Maestranzi triple from the top of the key to send the raucous crowed
of 3,815, into a frenzy.
Ball State once
again weathered the storm and fought back within four (52-48) thanks
to an 11-2 run, but NIU's aggressive offense thwarted any further
damage, securing five consecutive free throws from Sims (two) and
Peterson (three) to push the NIU lead back to nine (57-48) at 6:21.
For the game, Northern Illinois shot a season-best 28-of-31 at the
foul stripe and opened the contest by hitting 22 consecutive. NIU
didn't suffer its first miss from the foul line until the 1:20 mark
of the second half.
"We've been a good free throw shooting team all season and
we have ranked among the top two or three in the MAC all year,"
Judson said. "Free throw shooting is a focus for us at practice
and it has paid off. We are an improved club in that area. We only
made the four field goals in the second half, but a lot of that
had to do with our aggressiveness on offense, taking the ball to
the basket. When you go to the basket and force the ball into the
paint, you are going to have some free-throw opportunities. They
key is to make both shots. We did that today."
Ball State made one final push at the Huskies in the final 1:40,
cutting the margin down to two (64-62) on a Anthony Kent jumper,
but three consecutive free throws from Maestranzi pushed the lead
back to five and sealed Northern Illinois' sixth consecutive home
Other notable performances turned in by NIU included a 12-point,
seven-rebound afternoon by sophomore Mike McKinney. The Evanston,
IL, native also dished out five assists while committing just one
turnover. James Hughes also reached double digits with 10 points
and five boards.
Northern Illinois wraps up the regular season on Wednesday (March
2) against the Toledo Rockets. The game will also serve as Senior
Night for Johnathan Byrd of Chicago's Morgan Park High School. Game
time between the Huskies and Rockets is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.