March 8, 2003
FINAL SCORE: WESTERN MICHIGAN 71, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 67 (OVERTIME)
DeKALB, IL - Before the start of Saturday's (March 8) contest with Western
Michigan University, if you had told Northern Illinois University men's
basketball coach Rob Judson that his team would outrebound the
Broncos 43-28 and hold them to 38 percent shooting, he'd take those odds.
Unfortunately, Huskie miscues outweighed both of those numbers as WMU
prevailed 71-67 in overtime.
The loss drops Northern
Illinois to 15-13 and 11-7 in the Mid-American Conference, while Western
Michigan ups its record to 18-9 overall and 10-8 in the loop. The Broncos
have won six in a row against NIU.
The Huskies' loss,
combined with Kent State's victory over Ohio, means that NIU will be the
fourth seed for next week's MAC Tournament. Northern Illinois will play
host to the University at Buffalo at 7:05 p.m. (CST) on Monday (March
10). The Huskies will host their first postseason game since the 1986
when they lost 82-79 to Toledo during their first stint in the league.
NIU beat the Bulls 70-61 on February 6 in their only meeting this season.
Backed by 15 boards
from forward Marcus Smallwood (Elgin), Northern Illinois posted
its fourth-highest rebounding margin of the year. The 6-foot-6 junior
added 13 points for his 13th double-double of the year, the most by a
Huskie since T.J. Lux posted 17 during 1997-98 campaign. Jamel Staten
(Minneapolis, MN / North) equaled his season-high with a team-best 14
markers while P.J. Smith (Maywood / Proviso East) added ten.
But Northern Illinois'
Achilles' Heal was turnovers. For the second game in a row the Huskies
committed more than 20 miscues with a season-high 27 turnovers. Northern
Illinois has not had back-to-back 20-plus turnover games since losing
to Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green St. WMU took advantage of NIU's
poor ball-handling to the tune of 22 points off turnovers. Only two of
the ten Huskies did not commit a miscue with four players turning it over
turnovers is way to many," Judson said. "Our decisions weren't
great. It was a tough game to finish. I thought our guys competed great
and battled the whole time."
After Mike Williams
made an eight-footer on the baseline with 0:24.3 seconds remaining to
tie the game at 61, the Huskies set up for the final shot. Smallwood got
the ball on the baseline, but before he went up for the shot he stepped
on the end line. Northern Illinois' lead was as high as five (60-55) with
1:43 remaining, but Robby Collum-who scored a game-high 25 points-made
four free throws along with the Williams jumper.
In the extra frame,
Northern Illinois took the lead (65-63) on a three-pointer from Anthony
Maestranzi (Bartlett), but would only score two more points the rest
of the way on a pair of Staten free throws. During the final 2:45, Collum
answered with a three of his own to give WMU the lead for good and Bobby
Madison added five free throws. The Broncos went 16-of-18 from the line
in the second half and overtime as part of their 20-of-24 performance
negated our poor shooting," WMU floor boss Robert McCullum said.
"That was our thought going into the game. We had to force them into
committing 20 turnovers."
Smallwood played like
a man possessed in the second half, scoring 11 of his points in the final
25 minutes while grabbing 12 boards. Foul trouble forced him to sit for
the majority of the final ten minutes of the first stanza. He fell one
short of his season high with five blocks with many coming during NIU's
11-2 run midway through the second half to erase a seven-point deficit.
During a four-minute span he scored nine of the Huskies' 14 points.
Monday NIU will try
to do something it hasn't done in seven years: win a playoff game. The
Huskies last postseason triumph was an 84-63 victory over Detroit in the
finals of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. The last time NIU won
a MAC Tournament game was during 1981-82 when it beat Ball State 79-75
in overtime of the conference finals.
--Copy by Michael