Northern Illinois Men's Basketball Opens Conference Play With Akron On Saturday

GO HUSKIES
GO HUSKIES

GO HUSKIES
Northern Illinois (1-3, 0-0 MAC) vs. Akron (3-1, 0-0 MAC)
2:05 p.m. (CST) l Saturday, December 4, 2004
Convocation Center (9,100) l DeKalb, IL

Game Day Quick Facts:
Television: None

Radio: The Huskie Sports Radio Network with Bill Baker and Sid Simmons airs on 1360-AM WLBK (DeKalb), 95.7-FM WSEY (Rockford, Freeport, Sterling, Dixon) and 102.9 FM (LaSalle-Peru).

Coaches: Rob Judson (Illinois ’80) is 40-53 in his fourth season at Northern Illinois. Akron head coach Keith Dambrot is 3-1 in his first season with his alma mater and 23-35 all-time. Dambrot spent 1991-93 seasons as the head coach at Central Michigan and went 20-34 in his two campaigns with the Chippewas.

Officials: Will be announced on game day.


Northern Illinois vs. Akron Probable Starting Lineups
Northern Illinois Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown PPG RPG APG

F 33 Johnathan Byrd 6-9 225 Sr. Chicago, IL 11.0 5.0 0.0
F 25 Paige Paulsen 6-7 220 So. Custer, SD 9.5 4.3 0.8
G 15 Zach Pancratz 6-5 198 Fr. Schaumburg, IL 4.0 3.0 1.8
G 23 Mike McKinney 6-4 200 So. Evanston, IL 11.3 5.8 1.3
G 3 Anthony Maestranzi 5-10 165 Jr. Bartlett, IL 6.8 1.3 4.5

Akron Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown PPG RPG APG
F 21 Jeremiah Wood 6-6 245 So. Akron, OH 13.5 9.0 1.5
F 23 Darryl Peterson 6-5 220 Jr. Cincinnati, OH 11.5 3.3 0.3
C 52 Nick Meyers 6-9 230 Sr. Bloomington, MN 2.3 2.0 0.5
G 10 Dru Joyce 6-0 165 So. Akron, OH 7.5 1.5 6.8
G 12 Mario Collins 5-5 165 Sr. Columbus, OH 5.0 2.3 2.3

What You Need To Know About Today’s Game
Northern Illinois is in its 100th season of college basketball and will be playing its 1,962nd contest this afternoon ... The Huskies are 1,005-956 all-time and will be looking for their second win of the season today ... Northern Illinois will also be looking for its first win in a conference-opener since 1996 and first win in a MAC-opener since 1984 ... Don’t be surprised if the Huskies head into the halftime break in front ... NIU has gone into the lockerroom with the lead in all four games this season and has outscored its opposition 126-113 in the opening 20 minutes ... Two primary reasons for that first half productivity has been the Huskie bench and senior post player Johnathan Byrd ... NIU is getting 28.0 points per game from its bench with a combined 20.3 points coming from James Hughes and Cory Sims ... Byrd is averaging a career best 11.0 points per game on the season, 8.3 of which, are coming in the first half ... The Huskies played their sixth overtime game of the Judson era on Wednesday (Dec. 1) and are now 4-2 in the extra period ... The 76-74 loss to Bradley also marked the second overtime game in the history of the Convocation Center ... The only other overtime game in the Convo was a 101-100 double-overtime loss at the hands of these same Akron Zips on Jan. 29, 2003 ... NIU responded from that overtime defeat with an impressive 78-60 win over Ball State at home.

Scouting The Akron Zips
Akron comes into today’s match on a three-game winning streak, with all three wins coming by at least 12 points ... The Zips are 1-1 on the road this season, with that lone loss, a 90-88 defeat at Drake (Nov. 19), coming in the season-opener ... Sophomore All-MAC pick Jeremiah Wood leads the team in scoring and rebounding ... Wood is nearly averaging a double-double with 13.5 points and a MAC-best 9.0 rebounds ... Junior Darryl Peterson and newcomer Bubba Walther join Wood with 11.5 and 10.3 ppg. averages, respectively ... One of the league’s highest scoring teams, Akron is averaging 80.5 points per game and is shooting a robust 48.4 percent from the floor.

The NIU Series With Akron
A lopsided affair over the past six years, the Zips carry a seven game winning streak over the Huskies into tonight’s contest and hold a 15-5 lead all-time over the “Dawgs” ... Akron has won three straight over Northern Illinois in DeKalb, including a 101-100 double overtime win on Jan. 29, 2003 ... Akron leads the series 6-4 in the 10 games played in DeKalb ... Northern Illinois’ last win in the series came Jan. 5, 1998, by a 66-64 margin ... A relatively new rivalry, the NIU-UA series began 1988 with the Huskies dropping a 75-68 contest at Chick Evans Field House.

What? No Marshall?
No, we’re not sending the Thundering Herd out the door to Conference USA just yet, but the Huskies have become accustomed to facing Marshall in their early-season Mid-American Conference lid-lifter ... A staple in the MAC scheduling process since the 1998-99 season, Marshall and NIU have hooked up 5-of-6 times in the early to mid-December Conference-openers, with the lone exception coming during the 1999-2000 season when the Huskies fell 79-56 at Akron (Dec. 11) ... Perhaps the change is good, however, as Marshall racked up a 4-0 record in those games and NIU is 0-5 all-time in the early MAC openers.

Huskies Hope To Buck Losing Trend In Conference Openers
Needless to say, but conference-openers haven’t been much fun for Northern Illinois over the past decade ... Winless in nine straight MAC openers, NIU hasn’t won a league lid-lifter of any kind since a 65-62 overtime win vs. Loyola on Jan. 4, 1996 ... In all, the Huskies have dropped eight straight league openers since the Loyola triumph and haven’t won a MAC opener since the 1983-84 season, a 74-67 overtime win over Central Michigan on Jan. 4, 1984.

Huskies Embark On Month-Long Road Swing
From Charleston, IL, to beautiful Manhattan, KS, before a pair of tournament games in sunny Corpus Christi, TX ... Today’s contest with Akron will be the final home game before a 29-day road trip for the NIU basketball team ... NIU opens the road swing in Charleston, IL, for an in-state battle with the Eastern Illinois Panthers, before a date with the currently undefeated Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan ... The Huskies then travel to Corpus Christi, TX, for games against St. Bonaventure of the Atlantic 10 and either the host Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders or Alcorn State Braves ... The host Islanders are off to a 3-1 start, with marquee wins coming against Florida State (85-79), Texas Christian (85-79) and Old Dominion (71-67).

Sims’ City: Newcomer At Best Down The Stretch
Northern Illinois newcomer Cory Sims is at his best with the game on the line ... Although the Huskies have dropped a pair of close home decisions by a combined four points, the junior college transfer has played a big part in putting the Huskies in a position to win each of those games ... The team’s best penetrator thus far, Sims has scored 22 of his 39 points (56.4 percent) in the game’s final 6:19 ... Wednesday vs. Bradley, Sims scored 10 of his career high 17 points in the final 4:49, plus the overtime period, to bring NIU storming back in a 76-74 overtime loss ... Sims also scored seven of his 10 points in the final 2:14 in a 65-63 home loss to Southwest Missouri State and five of his 10 points in the final 6:19 in the opener at Loyola.

Working Overtime: Six Huskies Averaging 23 + Minutes Per Game
Head coach Rob Judson has settled into an eight-man rotation and six of those players are seeing the brunt of the playing-time load ... Six Huskies are averaging better than 23 minutes per game including Anthony Maestranzi (32.5) and Mike McKinney (30.8) who are averaging better than 30 minutes an outing ... Five different Huskies have topped 30 minutes in a game this season, led by Maestranzi and McKinney who have each done it three times in four games ... Newcomers Zach Pancratz (27.5 mpg) and Cory Sims (27.5 mpg) have eclipsed 30 minutes twice this season and Paige Paulsen (23.3 mpg) played a career high 31 minutes vs. SMS (11/24/04) ... Johnathan Byrd (23.8 mpg) is the other Huskie averaging at least 23 minutes per contest.

Calling Up The Reserves: NIU Bench Producing Big Numbers
Northern Illinois’ bench has provided an impressive 39 percent of the team’s scoring this season with reserve center James Hughes leading the way with a scoring average of 10.5 ppg ... Hughes ranks second on the team in scoring and tied for first in rebounding (5.8) despite playing just 17.3 minutes per game, which ranks eighth on the club ... Fellow reserve Cory Sims ranks fourth with 9.8 points per game which includes a career-high 17 points vs. Bradley (Dec. 1) ... Overall, the Huskies are averaging 28.0 points from their bench, with a majority of those points coming from the three player rotation of Hughes (10.5), Sims (9.8) and Todd Peterson (5.0).

Byrd Lifts-Off, Sets Career-Highs In Nine Statistical Categories
The most improved player in the Mid-American Conference? ... At the very least, senior forward Johnathan Byrd will get strong consideration as he continues his torrid start to his final season of collegiate basketball ... Byrd’s 44 points (11.0 ppg) through just four games nearly doubles the 28 points he scored during his entire junior season and his average of 23.8 minutes per game triples the 7.9 minutes off the pine he averaged a year ago ... After opening the season with a career-high 11 points at Loyola (11/20/04), Byrd reset that career number with 13 first-half points in the Huskies’ 84-69 win at DePaul and did it again with 14 points vs. Bradley (12/1/04) ... Byrd is shooting a team-best 67.9 percent from the floor (19-of-28) and is tied for the MAC lead with eight blocked shots ... Just four games into the season, Byrd has set career highs in points (14), field goals (6), field goal attempts (9), free throws (3), free throw attempts (4), rebounds (7), blocks (3), steals (2) and minutes (32) ... The Morgan Park High School product is also shooting 66.7 percent at the free throw line (6-of-9) after shooting 28.6 percent (6-of-21) last season.

Not In My House: Hughes, Byrd Producing Big Blocked Shot Totals
Senior Johnathan Byrd and sophomore James Hughes have become a dominant defensive force in the middle for the Huskies this season ... The duo is tied for the Mid-American Conference lead in blocked shots per game (2.0) and have combined for 16 of NIU’s 18 blocks this season, with each player owning eight swats ... Hughes had a breakout game defensively vs. Bradley (Dec. 1), blocking a season-high four shots ... Over his career, Hughes has blocked four or more shots five times including six swats on two occasions as a freshman ... Byrd has flourished in his senior season and has had multiple blocks in each of the past three games, including a career-high three vs. SMS (Nov. 24).

Peterson Scores 15 Points vs. DePaul, Earns Jay Goedert MVP Award
Following a second-half three-point barrage, which saw Northern Illinois extend its nine-point halftime lead on DePaul, junior forward Todd Peterson was named the inaugural Jay Goedert Most Valuable Player for the Northern Illinois - DePaul contest on Nov. 27 ... Named for the former Northern Illinois (1985-87) and DePaul (1987-97) assistant coach, Goedert was a member of legendary coach John McDougal’s final staff (1985-86) at NIU and also served on Jim Rosborough’s first staff (1986-87) ... Goedert then moved on to DePaul, where he coached under Joey Meyer (1987-97) for 10 seasons ... Peterson finished the contest with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from three-point range to help lead the Huskies to the resounding 84-69 road win.

‘Tis The Season: Maestranzi Near Perfect As Huskie Assist Man
Finally healthy after an injury-plagued 2003-04 season, junior point guard Anthony Maestranzi has been near-flawless running the point for Northern Illinois this season ... A capable shooter from the perimeter (seven three-pointers), Maestranzi has done his best work as a set-up man, dishing out 18 assists, while committing just four turnovers ... Over his last 128:54, Maestranzi has committed just three turnovers and is averaging one turnover every 42:58 of playing time during that stretch ... Over the last three games, the Bartlett, IL, native has dished out 16 dimes and has a 5.3:1 assist : turnover ratio and needs just 12 more helpers to move into the Northern Illinois top 10 for career assists ... The 5-foot-10 guard currently has 182 career assists.

Free Throw Shooting Carries NIU While Offense Comes Around
It’s way to early to start talking about records, but a Northern Illinois team has never shot free throws this well ... Among the Mid-American Conference leaders with a 76.3 percent shooting stroke from the line, the Huskies have connected on 61-of-80 charity shots through four games and four Huskies are shooting better than 75.0 percent from the stripe ... Sophomore guard Mike McKinney is leading the way at 87.5 percent and has hit 14-of-16 free throws this year ... Sophomore center James Hughes is just off McKinney’s pace with 81.8 percent shooting (18-of-22) and even Johnathan Byrd, who hit just 6-of-21 free throws last season, is shooting 67.0 percent (6-of-9) ... In 2003-04, NIU ranked 11th in the MAC in free throw shooting (428-of-653, .655) and let a devastating 225 points slip away during a campaign that saw them drop 13 games by 10 points or less.

Paulsen’s Strained Ligament Adds To NIU’s Walking Wounded
With just 12 scholarship players available due to Ben Rand’s NCAA-mandated redshirt (transfer from University of Iowa), the Huskies have little margin for error with regards to injuries ... Unfortunately that margin for error continues to get even smaller with the recent left thumb injury sustained by sophomore forward Paige Paulsen ... A strained ligament in his left (non-shooting hand) thumb, Paulsen suffered the injury at practice on Nov. 26, the night before he poured in a career-high 19 points at DePaul ... Paulsen joins Craig Reichel, Ryan Paradise and Bryson McKenzie in the NIU infirmary ... While McKenzie has seen increased playing / practice time following a pair of arthroscopic knee surgeries, Paradise and Reichel haven’t had such luck ... Paradise is still recovering from a pair of off-season wrist surgeries on his left shooting wrist and is now working into a light conditioning regimen ... Reichel suffered a deep bone bruise in his right ankle during workouts, but is now going through full practices and is suiting up during the games.

Baby Steps: Young Huskies Get Their Rebounding On the Rebound
With 11 first or second-year players in the program, Northern Illinois head coach Rob Judson is looking for consistent, day-to-day improvement from his young ball club and has gotten it thus far with improved rebounding efforts vs. Southwest Missouri State (11/24/04), DePaul (11/27/04) and Bradley (12/1/04) ... NIU was outrebounded 42-25 to open the year at Loyola (11/20/04) and relinquished 18 offensive rebounds to the Ramblers, which led to a 21-6 second-chance point advantage ... Over the last three games, however, the Huskies have been dominant on the glass, outrebounding their last three foes by a combined 17 boards, which include 39 offensive rebounds.

Peterson Charges Up Career Three-Point Standings
After two seasons, junior forward Todd Peterson is currently on pace to break the Northern Illinois career record for 3-point field goals ... Already with 120 treys for his career, Peterson buried 60 triples last season (fifth in NIU single-season history) and needs just 25 more to move into the NIU Top Five ... Current assistant coach Donald Whiteside (1987-91) holds the career record with 204 treys ... Tied for eighth with Marlin Simms (1991-96), next on the list for the 6-foot-8 forward will be Randy Tucker (1992-94) who hit 124 treys.

Sims Making Smooth Transition To Division I Basketball
Junior College transfer Cory Sims has provided Northern Illinois with the depth they so sorely missed at the point guard position last season and has produced three double-figure scoring games in the season’s first two weeks ... Sims opened his Division I career with back-to-back 10-point efforts vs. Loyola (11/20/04) and SMS (11/24/04) before pouring in a career-high 17 points vs. Bradley (12/1/04) ... In the one contest Sims failed to reach double-figures (at DePaul, 11/27/04), the Livingston, AL, native helped five other Huskies accomplish the feat by dishing out a career high six assists ... Sims currently ranks fourth on the team in scoring (9.8), fourth in rebounding (4.3), second in assists (3.5) and third in minutes (27.5).

Pancratz Plays 35 Minutes, Joins Elite NIU Company For Freshmen
Although he was the third freshman of the Rob Judson Era to start a season-opener, rookie shooting guard Zach Pancratz quickly distinguished himself from Julian McElroy (2001) and Rome Sanders (2002) by playing an unprecedented 35 minutes in the opener vs. Loyola ... Pancratz became the first Huskie freshman to play 30+ minutes in his collegiate debut since Kenny Battle played 31 against DePaul on Nov. 24, 1984 ... Pancratz also became the first Huskie freshman to both start and score in an opener since Matt Nelson poured in 13 points against Chicago State on Nov. 14, 1999.

Just Add Water: James Hughes Makes Instant Impact Off The Pine
Although he ranks eighth on the team in minutes played (17.3), sophomore center James Hughes has had little trouble doubling his point and rebound production from a year ago as he ranks third on the squad in points (10.3) and tops in rebounding (5.8) per game ... One of the nation’s most efficient players, Hughes is averaging 0.6 points per minute of playing time and has a 1.04 to 1 positive impact ratio, meaning the 6-foot-11 sophomore’s point, rebound and blocked shot average per minute equals 1.1 ... In addition to the 0.61 points per minute, Hughes is averaging 0.31 rebounds and 0.12 blocks per minute of playing time.

Byrd, Hughes, McKenzie NIU’s Three-Headed Monster At Center
It’s not Luc Longley, Will Perdue and Bill Wennington (of Chicago Bulls fame), but the results, at least during the early portion of 2004-05, have been the same ... Northern Illinois head coach Rob Judson has gone with the “center-by-committee” approach so far this season and is getting great production from senior Johnathan Byrd and sophomores James Hughes and Bryson McKenzie ... Although McKenzie played just one minute in the opener against Loyola (Nov. 20), Byrd and Hughes have flourished, helping the Huskies outscore their regular-season opponents in the paint by a combined 110-102 ... Byrd and Hughes are playing a combined 41.1 minutes per game and account for 21.5 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.0 blocks and 1.3 steals per game ... During the 1994-95 season, when Longley, Perdue and Wennington were Chicago’s “Men in the Middle”, the trio averaged 17.2 points, 14.1 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 3.0 assists and 1.2 blocks in 51.7 minutes.

Defense ... Defense ...
The Northern Illinois calling card under Rob Judson has always been defense and with the return of Mike McKinney, the MAC’s top perimeter defender, and James Hughes, the MAC’s leading returning shot-blocker, the defense should again vault to the forefront as the Huskies look to move up the MAC standings ... Although NIU has started the season 1-3, the defense has been steady, as the Huskies have allowed just 68.2 points per game ... In the opener, Loyola shot just 40-percent for the game and just .286-percent (6-of-21) from beyond the arc ... In a narrow 65-63 loss to SMS, the Huskies allowed just 36 percent shooting (9-of-25) in the opening half and forced the Bears into 20 turnovers ... The most impressive defensive effort, however, came in the second half of NIU’s 84-69 win at DePaul, where the Huskies held the Blue Demons to 32-percent shooting (8-of-25) and forced the heavily-favored hosts into 14 turnovers.

Welcome Back: Fourth-Year Sophomore McKenzie Returns
It was a long road to recovery for (fourth-year) sophomore Bryson McKenzie, but the 6-foot-10 center made his return to collegiate basketball on Nov. 20 in the season-opener against Loyola ... Although he played just one minute, the court time by McKenzie was his first in a regular-season game since Jan. 3, 2004, against Ohio ... The Gary, IN, native also contributed in both preseason matchups and finished with a five-point, two-rebound effort in five minutes of playing time vs. IIT (Nov. 8) and scored two points and grabbed three boards in eight minutes vs. Laval (Nov. 13).

NIU Unveils ‘Huskie Hoop Time’ For 2004-05 Season
In a nutshell, Huskie Hoop Time is everything encompassing NIU men’s basketball for the 2004-05 season ... A marketing slogan coined by NIU basketball coach Rob Judson, Huskie Hoop Time was the official name of NIU’s Midnight Madness on Oct. 15/16 and is printed on red silicon bracelets that will be sold throughout campus for $1 promoting fan and student ownership with the men’s basketball program ... Proceeds from the $1 bracelets will go to the Illinois Military Family Relief Fund to help support the families of Illinois soldiers fighting the war on terrorism ... The effort is being called “Hoops For Troops”.

Houston, We Have Our Point Guard, Lipkins Inks With NIU
Northern Illinois men’s basketball coach Rob Judson announced the signing of Houston, TX, Sharpstown HS point guard Quintan Lipkins to a national letter of intent on Nov. 10 ... A 5-foot-9, 160-pound speedster, Lipkins was the No. 3 scorer in Texas Class 4A last season (24.5 ppg), and terrorized opposing defenses as he led Sharpstown to an 18-12 overall record ... An outstanding creator for his teammates, Lipkins dished out a Sharpstown single-season record 296 assists last year en route to earning All-District 22 accolades for the second consecutive season. A three-year starter for the Apollos, Lipkins has started 85-of-91 career games and has scored over 1,500 points as a prep, an average of 16.5 points over his high school career ... Lipkins enters his senior season as the No. 2 returning scorer in the state of Texas.

Low RPM’s: Reichel, Paradise, McKenzie Among The Wounded
With just 12 scholarship players available due to Ben Rand’s NCAA-mandated redshirt (transfer from University of Iowa), the Huskies have little margin for error with regards to injuries ... Unfortunately that margin for error got even smaller with the injuries sustained by freshman Craig Reichel and sophomores Ryan Paradise and Bryson McKenzie ... While McKenzie has seen increased playing / practice time following a pair of arthroscopic knee surgeries, Paradise and Reichel haven’t had such luck ... Paradise is still recovering from a pair of off-season wrist surgeries on his left shooting wrist and is now working into a light conditioning regimen ... Reichel suffered a deep bone bruise in his right ankle during workouts, but suited up and went through warmups before the Nov. 24 game against Southwest Missouri State.

There’s No Place Like Home: NIU Home Numbers Solid In 2004
The Convocation Center finally became “Home Sweet Home” in 2004 ... After going 7-7 at home in the facility’s first year, NIU finished last season with an 8-5 overall mark including wins over MAC foes Miami, Ohio, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, as well as in-state foes Illinois State and Eastern Illinois ... The Huskies were markedly better statistically as well, shooting 46.6 percent from the floor, while hitting 43.5 percent from three-point range ... Defensively, NIU held opponents to just 65.0 points and a 37.4 percent success rate from the field ... The 8-5 home record for the Huskies was the best since the 1999-2000 season when NIU also went 8-5 at Chick Evans Field House.

Peterson Charges Up Career Three-Point Standings
After two seasons, junior forward Todd Peterson is currently on pace to break the Northern Illinois career record for 3-point field goals ... Already with 114 treys for his career, Peterson buried 60 triples last season (fifth in NIU single-season history) and needs just 31 more to move into the NIU Top Five ... Current assistant coach Donald Whiteside (1987-91) holds the career record with 204 treys ... Next on the list for Peterson will be Marlin Simms (1991-96) who stands eighth with 120.


MAC Preseason Rankings
Toledo in the West, Buffalo in the East, those were the preseason predictions by the Mid-American Conference News Media Association Poll released at MAC Media Day Oct. 21 in Cleveland ... Toledo was the overwhelming pick to win the West, receiving 31 of the 37 first-place votes ... NIU was picked sixth with 88 total votes, well ahead of seventh-place Central Michigan (49 votes) ... Buffalo received 29 of 37 first-place votes in the East with Kent State (7) and Miami (1) also receiving Divisional Champion recognition ... Toledo was also the overwhelming favorite to win the FirstEnergy MAC Tournament, getting 19 of the 37 possible votes ... Buffalo was second with eight tourney championship votes.

Pl West Division Pts
1. Toledo (31) 252
2. Ball State 290
3. Western Michigan (3) 189
4. Eastern Michigan (3) 153
5. Bowling Green 116
6. Northern Illinois 88
7. Central Michigan 49

Pl East Division Pts
1. Buffalo (29) 207
2. Kent State (7) 174
3. Miami (1) 171
4. Marshall 84
5. Akron 79
6. Ohio 62

Huskie Newcomer Sims Cited Top Transfer By Street & Smith’s
Street & Smith Magazine named NIU newcomer Cory Sims the top transfer in the Mid-American Conference heading into the 2004-05 season ... A NJCAA Division II All-American, Sims led Lewis & Clark Community College to a 24-11 overall record and a spot in the NJCAA National Tournament ... A versatile perimeter performer, Sims was awarded the Jack Cistriano “Best Small Man Award” after averaging 22.6 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game ... In addition to ranking No. 7 nationally in scoring, Sims ranked No. 31 in steals with 2.6 per contest.

Defensive Calling Card
Could this be a better defensive unit in 2004? ... You bet, especially with the MAC’s top returning shot-blocker (James Hughes) and top perimeter defender (Mike McKinney) coming back ... The all-time freshman shot-blocker in school history, Hughes swatted 53 shots as a rookie and averaged 1.77 blocks per game, placing him second in the league and No. 46 nationally ... Hughes also finished sixth nationally among freshmen in that category, as he blocked at least one shot in 24-of-30 games and had multiple swats 13 times ... McKinney’s defensive efforts were more subtle ... In fact, you could call the Evanston native the “Silencer” after what he did to 2004-05 Preseason Player of the Year Keith Triplett (Toledo) on Feb. 11, 2004, and a host of other high-scoring performers around the League ... McKinney held Triplett (19.6 ppg) scoreless through the first 24:36 of that Feb. 11 contest, before going to the bench with his third foul ... McKinney also “Silenced” Kent State’s Eric Haut (six points), former Bowling Green guard Ron Lewis (11 points) and Eastern Michigan’s Markus Austin (five points) holding the trio a combined 22.2 points below their season norms.

Noting The Huskie Newcomers
For the second consecutive season, Rob Judson has five newcomers entering the program, although just four will be eligible due to NCAA transfer guidelines (Ben Rand) ... Frank Clair enters NIU after an outstanding prep career at Chicago’s Leo High School ... The IHSA Class A State Tournament MVP in 2004, Clair brings an excellent mid-range game to go with a developing array of post moves ... Strength will be key for Clair and as that develops, the sky is the limit for the 6-foot-6 small forward ... Basketball savvy, gym rat, headstrong, all excellent descriptions of freshman shooting guard Zach Pancratz ... A dead-eye, self-made shooter, Pancratz spent many-a-morning waiting for Convocation Center personnel to open the gym as he shot more than 1,000 jumpers a day in preparation for his first season at the Division I level ... His high school teammate, Craig Reichel, is a weight coaches dream ... With 230 pounds on his 6-foot-8 frame, Reichel will have the opportunity to develop into a physical presence and could be a staple in the NIU frontline for years to come ... In addition to his size, Reichel possesses a soft shooting touch as he hit 35-percent of his 3-point attempts as a high school senior ... Injuries decimated the NIU backcourt in 2003-04, but the addition of junior college transfer Cory Sims should help bolster NIU’s depth at that spot ... A NJCAA Division II All-American, Sims is a nice combination of a “Floor General” and a “Play Maker” ... Last season, Sims was the top guard at the NJCAA Division II level and led his team to the National Tournament ... As with most transfers, Sims is going through a speed adjustment, but should settle in nicely to complement the shooting ability of Anthony Maestranzi in the backcourt ... Although he will be forced to sit out the 2004-05 season because of NCAA transfer guidelines, Ben Rand will make an impact on this season’s team as a practice player, where he can use his size and athletic ability at the guard position to emulate some of the bigger backcourt players the Huskies will face ... A 6-foot-6, 190-pound swing player, Rand stole the show at Huskie Hoop Time (NIU’s version of Midnight Madness) hitting a pair of threes and making a pair of acrobatic layups in only 10 minutes of scrimmage time.


 

 

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