Huskies men's hoops wins sixth straight home game with 70-67 victory over Ball State

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February 27, 2005

Todd Peterson Lifts NIU To Sixth Consecutive Home Win, Pours In 26 In 70-67 Win Over Ball State

Box Score

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 stretch.

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 triumph.

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.

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