FINAL SCORE: VALPARASIO 78, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 67
VALPARAISO, IN - One way for the Northern Illinois University men's basketball
team to measure its progress is to compare its performance from this year
to last against common opponents from last season. The Huskies roughest
game of the 2001-02 campaign was a 70-50 loss to Valparaiso University
and even though they made improvement in this year's meeting, the Crusaders
still prevailed 78-67 on Saturday (November 30).
With the loss, Northern
Illinois falls back under .500 for the year as its record dips to 2-3.
Valparaiso improves its record to 2-1 on the early season and ups its
home-court winning streak to 13 games. Comparatively, the Huskies have
11 wins at home dating back to the beginning of the 2000-01 campaign.
Giving Northern Illinois
a spark on offensive was the play of guard Anthony Maestranzi (Bartlett).
The rookie came off the bench to score a team-high 18 points, all on three-pointers
as he established a new Huskie single-game freshman record with six three-pointers.
The previous mark of five was set by junior Al Sewasciuk (Summit / Argo)
against Wisconsin (November 25, 2000).
Maestranzi made all
six of his three-point attempts in the second half, falling one short
of the school record of seven set by Donte Parker against Illinois-Chicago
(Jan. 13, 1996). If the 5-foot-10 guard nails his next three-pointer,
he would tie the season mark set by Parker and Marcus Coty.
"We knew Anthony
was a great three-point shooter, he was a good shooter in high school,"
NIU head coach Rob Judson said. "He just needs to get comfortable
on the court and he certainly was comfortable tonight."
The 18 points scored
by Maestranzi are the most by an NIU rookie since Jamel Staten (Minneapolis,
MN / North) posted 21 in his collegiate debut versus Loyola (November
24, 2001). The sophomore forward was second on the team against Valparaiso,
scoring 13 points as he reached double-digits for the first time this
season. Guard P.J. Smith (Maywood / Proviso East) was the third Huskie
double figures as he added 11.
Going up against the
Crusaders' zone defense, Northern Illinois had to try to convert from
the outside. The Huskies aerial attack produced season highs of 12-for-28
shooting from three-point range, including a 53.8 percent clip (7-for-13)
in the second half. However, the Huskies outside shooting could not offset
Valparaiso's trips to the free throw line. NIU was whistled for 20 fouls,
leading to 17-of-26 at the charity stripe, compared to 3-for-8 by the
was Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde when it came to handling the basketball. The
Huskies picked up 20 assists-their most since 24 against Western Michigan
(Feb. 16, 2002)- on their 26 baskets, but also committed 20 turnovers.
Six different NIU players had two or more assists, led by forward Marcus
Smallwood (Elgin) as he dished out a career-high four helpers.
"We made some
immature turnovers to get ourselves in a hole early," Judson added.
"We did a better job in the second half and we made a little run.
We were down 49-32 and it could have been a lot worse, but we made some
shots and we cut the lead to eight."
three-pointer made it a 58-50 contest with 11:57 remaining, but the Crusaders
went on an 11-4 run to push the lead back to 15 points (69-54). Northern
Illinois had trouble countering Valparaiso's height on both ends of the
floor. VU center Ratis Grafs scored a game-high 23 points and snagged
seven boards as part of VU's 34-27 rebounding advantage. Forward's Smallwood
and Rome Sanders (Chicago / Curie) were held to 12 points and seven rebounds
with Staten leading the way on the glass with a team-high seven boards.
returns to the Convocation Center for its next two contests, starting
with a 7:05 p.m. start against Drake University on Wednesday (December
--Copy by Michael