Huskies Take on Portland State in Great Alaska Shootout Wednesday

GO HUSKIES Junior Najul Ervin
Junior Najul Ervin

Nov. 25, 2008

NIU-Portland State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

ANCHORAGE, Ala. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team (2-2) will make its first-ever appearance in the Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 26-29) this week, and will play its first game Wednesday against Portland State. The Vikings were the 2008 Big Sky Conference regular-season and tournament champions, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament as the league's automatic qualifier. PSU comes into Wednesday's contest with a 3-0 record.

The Huskies have won two of their last three games, but are coming off last Friday's two-point (75-73) setback at the hands of host Tennessee State. Wednesday's contest against the Vikings is the second of five-straight games away from the confines of the Convocation Center for the Huskies. NIU will play three games in the Great Alaska Shootout before heading to Colorado Springs, Colo., to take on host Air Force (Dec. 3).

All three of the Northern Illinois men's basketball team's games in the 2008 Great Alaska Shootout will be available via a live video stream. Alaska-Anchorage is offering a "Splash Zone" package, which includes an all-tournament subscription for $19.95 or single-session usage for $9.95 per day.

Northern Illinois (2-2) vs. Portland State (3-0)
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2008
Tip-off: 12:45 a.m. CST (Nov. 27)
Location: Anchorage, Ala.
Arena: Sullivan Arena
Television: None
Radio: Huskie Sports Radio Network
Bill Baker (play-by-play)
Flagship: WLBK-AM (1360, DeKalb)
WRHL-AM (1060, Rochelle)

After averaging 21.0 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in the Huskies' non-conference split last week; freshman guard Mike DiNunno was named the Mid-American Conference West Division Co-Player of the Week, as announced by the league office Monday.

For the week, DiNunno totaled 42 points, seven assists against just one turnover (7.0 assist/turnover ratio), seven rebounds and four steals. He converted 10 field goals, including seven from three-point range, and was 15-of-17 from the free throw line.


#32 Darion "Jake" Anderson (G)
AGAINST TENNESSEE STATE: Scored 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting, including a 1-for-8 effort from beyond the three-point line ... had four rebounds, three turnovers and one steal in 34 minutes.
NOTEWORTHY: Has scored in double-figures in two of Northern Illinois' four games.

#11 Mike DiNunno (G)
AGAINST TENNESSEE STATE: Scored a team-high 15 points on 4-of-18 shooting, including a 1-for-8 effort from beyond the three-point line ... was 6-for-6 from the charity stripe, and had three assists and three rebounds.
NOTEWORTHY: Has been the Huskies' leading scorer in all four contests.

#1 Bryan Hall (G)
AGAINST TENNESSEE STATE: Started his third-consecutive game, and had one assist and one block in seven minutes.
NOTEWORTHY: Has started the last three games at point guard -- owns a MAC second-best 3.67 assist/turnover ratio.

#2 Najul Ervin (F)
AGAINST TENNESSEE STATE: Had two points, six rebounds, two assists and one block in 31 minutes.
NOTEWORTHY: Enters the Great Alaska Shootout as NIU's leading rebounder, averaging 7.0 rebounds over the last two games.

#41 Sean Kowal (C)
AGAINST TENNESSEE STATE: Had eight points, all in the second-half, pulled down six rebounds, was credited with two turnovers and swiped one steal in 25 minutes. NOTEWORTHY: Has scored in double-figures in three-of four games -- is shooting a MAC fourth-best 59.4 percent from the field.

» Northern Illinois will be making its first-ever appearance in the Great Alaska Shootout. The event marks the second non-conference tournament for the Huskies this season; NIU also competed in the season-opening 100 Club Classic (Nov. 14-15) in Kennesaw, Ga., recording a third-place finish.
» After making the 3,535-mile trek to Anchorage, Ala., the Huskies have traveled a total of 6,147 miles in the first 12 days of the season. The Huskies also made the trip to and from Kennesaw, Ga., for the 100 Club Classic (Nov. 14-15), and played at Tennessee State last Friday.
» Northern Illinois will be looking to pick up its third win of the season Wednesday against Portland State. Last season, the Huskies didn't record their third victory until Dec. 29, 2007, after topping Arkansas-Little Rock, 59-55.
» Northern Illinois is 1-1 on neutral courts this season, falling to Maine (Nov. 14), and topping Western Illinois (Nov. 15) at the 100 Club Classic.
» The Huskies have never played a game against any of the opponents in the field of the 2008 Great Alaska Shootout (Alaska Anchorage, Hampton, Louisiana Tech, Portland State, San Diego State and Western Carolina).
» Northern Illinois will play its next four games either on the road or at a neutral location. After playing its three non-conference games in the Great Alaska Shootout, the Huskies will wrap up their road swing at Air Force on Dec. 3, before facing Chicago State at the Convocation Center Dec. 6. NIU has 18 games either on the road or at neutral locations this season.

LAST TIME OUT: Tennessee State Edges Huskies, 75-73
The Northern Illinois men's basketball team held a 65-57 lead with 6:07 remaining, but host Tennessee State (1-2) finished the game on an 18-10 run, securing its first win of the season, 75-73, over the Huskies (2-2) at the Gentry Center last Friday. NIU was held without a field goal for the final two minutes of the game.

Freshman Mike DiNunno scored a team-high 15 points, and was the Huskies' leading scorer for the fourth-consecutive game. He was joined in double-figures by sophomore guard Darion "Jake" Anderson, who chipped in 12 points. The duo was a combined 8-for-34 from the field.

The Huskies shot a season-low 37.3 percent (25-of-67) from the field, were out-rebounded (40-36) for the first time this season, and attempted 12 less free throws (17-of-21) than the Tigers (28-of-33). There were a combined 55 personal fouls charged in the game. The Huskies' bench held a decisive 36-5 advantage.

Former Alaska Anchorage letterwinner Scott Stevens, the Huskies' first-year director of basketball operations, returns home this week to participate in the Great Alaska Shootout. Stevens played for the Seawolves from 2002-04, and served as a team captain and scholar-athlete in his senior season. Prior to arriving in DeKalb, Ill., Stevens served stints as a graduate assistant coach at Northern State (2006-08), and was an assistant coach at Otero Junior College (2004-06).

Throughout NIU's six-day trip to Alaska for the Great Alaska Shootout, sophomore center Sean Kowal, and director of basketball operations Scott Stevens, will provide daily blogs about their experiences in the tournament on, the official internet home for Huskie athletics.

Freshman guard Mike DiNunno continued his impressive offensive stretch against host Tennessee State last Friday, scoring a team-high 15 points, despite shooting just 4-of-17 from the field. Heading into this weekend's MAC slate, DiNunno ranks fourth in the league in scoring (21.0 ppg), third in three-point field goals made (3.25 pg), third in minutes played (36.75 mpg), is tied for sixth in steals (2.00 spg) and ranks eighth in free throw percentage (.885).

For the first time this season, Northern Illinois' non-starters out-scored the opposition against Tennessee State, out-scoring the Tigers' reserves, 36-5. Sophomore guard Michael Patton scored six points on two three-pointers, senior forward Sean Smith chipped in a season-high eight points, junior Ante Dzepina had six points on 3-of-4 shooting, sophomore guard Jeremy Landers recorded his first double-digit outing of the season with 10 points, and freshman forward Tyler Storm had six points.

Darion "Jake" Anderson, the 2008 Mid-American Conference and Freshman of the Year, ranked in the league's top-20 in scoring (12.2 ppg), rebounding (5.1 rpg) and assists (2.64 apg) last season. Anderson led the Huskies in both scoring and rebounding 10 times, and was the MAC Player of the Week on Feb. 18, 2008. He recorded 16 double-digit scoring efforts.


Defending Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year Darion "Jake" Anderson enters the Great Alaska Shootout as the Huskies' second-leading scorer, and has seen his production increase in the following categories from his freshman to early in his sophomore campaign: points per game (12.2 to 16.3), three-point percentage (.227 to .333) and minutes per game (29.7 to 30.0). He passed the 400-career point plateau against Tennessee State, and enters this week's slate of games with 407 career points.

Northern Illinois' starting backcourt tandem of Mike DiNunno and Darion "Jake" Anderson have accounted for 52 percent of the Huskies' scoring this season. DiNunno and Anderson have scored a combined 189 points through four games.

Junior forward Najul Ervin has started the last three games, and is the team's leading rebounder entering the Great Alaska Shootout. He has 23 caroms (5.8 rpg) on the season, and has led the Huskies in rebounding in each of the last two contests, including a 7.0 rebound per game average in the past two games.

Sophomore center Sean Kowal is still becoming re-acclimated to full playing shape, and continues to recover from a sprained right ankle, but has been a steady inside presence for the Huskies early this season. Kowal has scored in double-digits in three-of-four games, and is shooting a MAC fourth-best 59.4 percent from the field.

Early this season, when Northern Illinois gets off to a quick start, and owns a lead at halftime, it has translated into wins. The Huskies are 2-0 this season when holding a halftime lead, defeating both Western Illinois and Indiana State. NIU is 0-2 when trailing at the halftime intermission.

Northern Illinois' two wins this season have come with the Huskies recording a team shooting percentage better than 40 percent. The Huskies shot 52.2 percent (24-of-46) against Western Illinois, and recorded a 41.9 percent (26-of-62) mark in their win over Indiana State.

Northern Illinois' rebounding margin is just +0.2 (sixth in the Mid-American Conference) this season, but a significant advantage for the Huskies in the early going has been their aggressiveness on the offensive and defensive glass. NIU has out-rebounded three-of its four foes, and is averaging a MAC second-best 14.5 offensive caroms per game.

In 2008-09, the Huskies will field a roster with eight Illinois natives, including five players from Chicago. True freshmen Mike DiNunno, Bryan Hall and Keith Smith, along with redshirt freshman Michael Fakuade and sophomore Darion "Jake" Anderson, all hail from the Windy City.

The Huskies' lone returning starter this season is Darion "Jake" Anderson, but NIU welcomes six newcomers to the mix, including 2007-08 red-shirts Lee Fisher, and Sean Kowal, a Colorado transfer. In all, 10 players that were either red-shirted or did not play last season will take the court for Northern Illinois in the 2008-09 campaign.

Northern Illinois returns nearly 45 percent (44.8) of its scoring, about 35 percent (34.6) of its rebounding, and almost 45 percent (44.6) of its assist totals from last season. Along with the return of Darion "Jake" Anderson, the Huskies also welcome back their top three-point shooter, sophomore Michael Patton, who converted a team-high 35 three-point field goals in 2007-08.



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