DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team will enter one of the nation's toughest gyms on Saturday night, as the Huskies will square off with No. 24 ranked Southern Illinois for a 7:05 p.m. (CST) tip-off at SIU Arena.
Since 2001, the Salukis have accumulated a record of 79-3 for a winning percentage of 96.3% at SIU Arena.
NIU (0-3) is coming off a rough weekend at the BTI Tip-Off Tourney, as the Huskies dropped all three of their contests to Northern Iowa (75-45), Massachusetts (102-87) and Cal Poly (88-78). Senior guard Ryan Paradise leads the Huskies in scoring with 15.3 points-per-contest.
Saturday marks the season-opener for the Salukis, as SIU earned exhibition victories over both King College (74-38) and Lincoln Memorial (97-51). SIU returns three starters from last season's `Sweet 16' squad, including Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Randal Falker (12.3 ppg., 7.7 rpg.) and MVC All-Defensive Team selection, Bryan Mullins (6.3 ppg.).
All-Time Series: Southern Illinois leads the all-time series over the Huskies, 57-21. In their last meeting, SIU earned the 98-70 victory over NIU on November 30, 1996, in DeKalb, Illinois. NIU's Chris Coleman posted 18 points, while teammate and Huskie All-Time leading scorer, T.J. Lux added a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds.
All-Time Against The AP 25: Northern Illinois is 2-24 all-time against the Associated Press Top 25, with their last contest against a ranked team on November 24, 2003 against #19 Notre Dame (L, 74-65). The Huskies last win over a ranked opponent came on February 3, 1973, a 95-86 triumph over #19 Oral Roberts.
Non-Conference Slate: There is no easing into the Mid-American Conference schedule as the Huskies' non-conference opponents, led by 2007 `Sweet 16' participant Southern Illinois, averaged 19.6 wins during the `06-'07 campaign.
40/40/40 Club: Northern Illinois has totaled over 40 rebounds in their last two games with a 40-board performance against Massachusetts (11/10/07) and a 42-rebound mark against Cal Poly (11/10/07). The last time that NIU notched over 40 rebounds in three consecutive games came in 2004 against Eastern Michigan (44), Ohio (41) and Ball State (42) from Jan. 17-25.
Peaks And The Valley: NIU is 93-154 all-time in contests against teams from the Missouri Valley Conference. The Huskies' last victory over an MVC opponent came on November 26, 2003 in a 66-55 win over Illinois State.
Bench Play: Through three games, the NIU bench is outscoring the opponents' bench, 28.7 to 26.3.
Foul Trouble: NIU has found itself in foul trouble over the first three games of the season, as opponents are averaging 34.3 charity shots per game against the Huskies.
Egan Can: Northern Illinois senior forward Egan Grafel has become a rebounding force for the Huskies over the last two games, as the Oberlin, Kansas native averaged 9.5 boards, including his first career double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds against Massachusetts, both career-highs.
Recruiting Class: NIU head coach Ricardo Patton announced his recruiting class on Thursday, November 15, inking guards Mike Dinunno (Chicago, Ill. / Von Steuben), Bryan Hall (Chicago, Ill. / Whitney Young) and forward Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill. / Geneseo) to play for the Huskies in 2008.
Injury Report: NIU freshman point guard Michael Patton is doubtful for the Southern Illinois game, as the Boulder, Colorado native is still recovering from a concussion suffered against Massachusetts on November 10.
Lost Long Range: Senior Zach Pancratz will sit out the 2007-08 season after undergoing left shoulder surgery to correct continued instability in his non-shooting arm. Last season, Pancratz led NIU with 51 trifectas.
Piece of the Boulder: Sophomore center Sean Kowal made the trip to DeKalb along with head coach Ricardo Patton after appearing in 27 games for Colorado as a rookie last season. Kowal must sit for the 2007-08 season, as per NCAA Transfer Guidelines.
They Call Me: NIU freshman guard Darion Anderson also goes by the nickname "Jake".
Martial Artist: NIU head coach Ricardo Patton has a fifth-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
The Butler Did It: Assistant Coach John Anderson's son, Jerametrius Butler, is a cornerback for the Buffalo Bills. Butler recorded his first career collegiate interception for Kansas State against Northern Illinois.
Big Hart: Senior walk-on Michael Hart had been dominating the NIU Recreation Center for the past three years, but decided to test his mettle and joined the Huskie basketball team at the beginning of the school year. Hart, who stands 6-foot-7, is averaging 9.3 points and 4.3 rebounds-per-game, while averaging 17 minutes in three games.
Coach Gaters: Redshirt freshman forward Darrius Gaters is the grandson of legendary high school basketball coach Dorothy Gaters. Gaters is the winningest girls basketball coach in Illinois history, totaling 794 victories at Chicago Marshall.
Full Strength: NIU senior swingman Ben Rand looks to be at full strength after undergoing two knee surgeries and missing 19 of the Huskies' last 33 contests since the 2005-06 campaign.
Home Opener: Northern Illinois will open its home campaign on Saturday, November 24, as they will welcome Stephen F. Austin to the NIU Convocation Center for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Up Next: NIU continues its tour of the Missouri Valley Conference, as the Huskies will face Indiana St. for a 6 p.m. (CST) tip-off on Tuesday, November 20 in Terre Haute, Ind.