Huskies Travel to Eastern Michigan in MAC Tournament First Round

GO HUSKIES Sophomore forward Keith Gray
GO HUSKIES
Sophomore forward Keith Gray
GO HUSKIES

March 10, 2013

Game Notes in PDF Get Acrobat Reader l MAC Tournament Bracket Get Acrobat Reader

Northern Illinois Huskies (5-24, 3-13 MAC) at Eastern Michigan Eagles (14-17, 7-9 MAC)
2013 FirstEnergy MAC Tournament First Round
Date / Time: Monday, March 11, 2013 / 6 p.m. CT (7 p.m. ET)
Site: EMU Convocation Center • Ypsilanti, Mich.
Radio: WLBK 1360-AM, 98.9-FM in DeKalb, Ill. • Huskie All-Access
Live Video: EMUEagles.com
Live Stats: EMUEagles.com
Twitter Updates: @NIUscores
All-time Series: Northern Illinois leads 50-33
Last Meeting: Feb. 27, 2013 • EMU 53-41

WHAT’S TRENDING
• Northern Illinois is traveling to Eastern Michigan in the FirstEnergy Mid-American Conference Tournament First Round for the second consecutive season, and the third time in the last four seasons.
• NIU is the No. 10 seed in the MAC Tournament, the winner of Monday’s game in Ypsilanti will face the winner of the Bowling Green vs. Miami game on Wednesday night in Cleveland, Ohio.
Aksel Bolin is averaging 11.3 points per game in the last three games, shooting 44.8 percent from the field.
Mike Davis is averaging 8.8 points in the last four games, starting the last three contests.  
Darrell Bowie is making a case for inclusion on the MAC All-Freshman Team. Bowie is averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game during conference play, ranking sixth in scoring among conference freshmen in league play and fifth in rebounding. Bowie entered league play averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Travon Baker is shooting 87.5 percent from the free-throw line over the last 13 games.
• 11 different players have started at least one game for the Huskies with Mike Davis becoming the 11th player, making his first career start against Central Michigan (March 2).
• Keith and Kevin Gray have both played in 60-straight contests; neither has missed a game in their collegiate career.

HUSKIES IN THE MAC TOURNAMENT
Just six players on Northern Illinois’ current roster have played in the Mid-American Conference Tournament. Their tournament stats are as follows:
Aksel Bolin: three games played, 7.0 points per game, 4.3 rebounds per game, 55.6 FG %, 57.1 3-PT %
Antone Christian: three games played, 6.3 points per game, 2.3 rebounds per game, 50.0 FG %, 50.0 3-PT %
Keith Gray: two games played, 1.5 points per game, 1.0 rebounds per game
Kevin Gray: two games played, 3.0 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game, 50.0 FG %
Abdel Nader: two games played, 4.5 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game
Tony Nixon: four games played, 6.8 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per game, 50.0 FG %, 44.4 3-PT %

BACK AGAIN
• Northern Illinois returns to Ypsilanti, Mich., to face Eastern Michigan for the second consecutive season in the Mid-American Conference Tournament First Round.
• Last season, NIU stunned the MAC West Division champion, 55-52, to advance to Cleveland and win its first MAC Tournament game since 2004.
Tony Nixon scored a game-high 14 points and a team-best five rebounds, Aksel Bolin added 13 points and five rebounds.
• The Huskies shot 48.7 percent in the contest, including 54.5 percent in the second half.
• NIU connected on nine triples in the game, shooting 42.9 percent from beyond the arc.
• Northern Illinois became the first No. 12 seed to win a game in the MAC Tournament since 12th-seeded Central Michigan beat No. 6 seed Ohio, 65-56, in 2002.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY
• Northern Illinois is entering its 19th Mid-American Conference Tournament, the Huskies have won one tournament title (1982), made two championship game appearances and four appearances in the semifinals.
• NIU is 9-17 all-time in MAC Tournament history.
• Last season, Mark Montgomery led NIU to its first conference tournament win since 2004 and advanced to Cleveland for the first time since 2009.
• The Huskies will be playing Eastern Michigan for the third time in the last four seasons. Each of the three meetings have been first round matchups, all three taking place in Ypsilanti.
• Since returning to the MAC in 1999-2000, Northern Illinois has won just three conference tournament games, winning a pair in 2003 and last season’s first round win at Eastern Michigan.

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 11 games, Darrell Bowie is shooting 50 percent from the field. Prior to that stretch, Bowie was shooting 41.9 percent for the season.
• In that same 11 game stretch, Keith Gray is shooting 51.9 percent from the field, Gray shot 36.5 percent from the field in the first 18 games of the year.
Kevin Gray is shooting 46.5 percent in the last eight games, Gray shot 38.9 percent in the first 21 games of the season.  
• Another one of NIU’s primary post players, Sam Mader, is still working his way back from a shoulder injury that saw him miss five games. Mader has played 15.5 minutes per game in the last two games.

A LOOK AT THE 2012-13 SEASON
• Freshmen have played 55.1 percent of the minutes this season for NIU; sophomores have added another 26.4 percent of the minutes (a total of 81.5 percent by underclassmen).
• The team leading at halftime has won all but three 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) and Ball State (March 9), when NIU led at the half lost.  
• Five Huskies, Travon Baker, Aksel Bolin, Darrell Bowie, Keith Gray and Kevin Gray, have played in all 29 games this season. No player has started all 29 games, with Bolin and Kevin Gray making the most starts (24 each).
• 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 fourth-least experienced team in the country (1.65) behind Texas (1.43), Dartmouth (1.63) and Samford (1.64).
• See page five for a complete chart of the nation’s least experienced teams.

IN THE MAC RANKINGS
Travon Baker is ninth in the MAC, tops among freshmen, with 1.4 steals per game.
Darrell Bowie is sixth in scoring among freshmen in league games (7.4 ppg) and fifth in rebounding among conference rookies in league play (4.4 rpg).  
• Northern Illinois ranks second in the MAC in offensive rebounding, pulling down 12.5 offensive boards per game.
• The Huskies are third in defensive rebounding percentage at 71 percent and led the MAC in defensive rebounding percentage in conference play at 71.6 percent.  

GETTING TO THE LINE
• Northern Illinois attempted 345 free throws during conference play, an average of 21.6 per contest.
• In contrast, the Huskies shot 190 free throws in non-conference action, an average of 14.6 trips per game.
Darrell Bowie (81) led NIU in free throw attempts in MAC contests.
Daveon Balls led the Huskies in free throw shooting in conference play, connecting at a 82.4 percent clip.  

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.

ABOUT EASTERN MICHIGAN
• The Eagles are 14-17 entering Monday’s first round tournament contest, Eastern Michigan finished conference play with a 7-9 mark, fourth in the MAC West.
• Eastern Michigan is 12-5 at home in Ypsilanti this season.
• Derek Thompson (11.2) and Glenn Bryant (10.7) each score in double figures for the Eagles.
• The Eagles lead the MAC in scoring defense, holding foes to just 59.7 points per game.
• Eastern Michigan is second in the MAC in field goal percentage defense (39.8 percent) and first in 3-point field goal percentage defense (29.9 percent).

ALL-TIME SERIES
• Northern Illinois leads the all-time series, 50-33.
• The Eagles have won both of this year’s regular season meetings, 42-25 in Ypsilanti and 53-41 in DeKalb.
• Eastern Michigan also won both regular season meetings last year before NIU claimed their first round MAC Tournament meeting, 55-52 in Ypsilanti.
• The Huskies and Eagles have met two of the last three years in the first round of the MAC Tournament, EMU won the 2010 meeting and NIU won the 2012 matchup.

BALL STATE RECAP
• Northern Illinois led for the first 34 minutes before falling at Ball State, 53-51, in the regular season finale.
• The Huskies had a look at a corner triple at the buzzer but the shot was missed long.
Darrell Bowie led the Huskies with 10 points Aksel Bolin finished just shy of a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
• The Huskies outrebounded the Cardinals 35-22 and bettered Ball State in second chance points, 14-5.
• NIU was whistled for 27 fouls while Ball State was called for just 12.
• The Northern Illinois bench outscored Ball State’s 26-14.
• NIU led by as much as 16 in the contest, 24-8, in the first half.