Huskies Host In-State Rival Chicago State Saturday

GO HUSKIES Sean Smith ranks second in the MAC in field goal percentage.
Sean Smith ranks second in the MAC in field goal percentage.

Dec. 5, 2008

NIU-Chicago State Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois men's basketball team (3-5) will play just its second home game of the season Saturday, when the Huskies host Chicago State (3-3) at the Convocation Center beginning at 2 p.m. NIU is 1-0 at home this season after defeating Missouri Valley Conference foe Indiana State in the home opener Nov. 18.

The Huskies are coming off Wednesday's 67-55 setback at Air Force, wrapping up a five-game road trip. Mid-American Conference-West Division Player of the Week Darion "Jake" Anderson led the Huskies in scoring for the fourth-consecutive game, but NIU was held to a season-low 36.4 shooting percentage. The Huskies ended the road swing with a 1-4 record.

NIU has never lost to Chicago State, compiling a 20-0 record. The Huskies and Cougars have not played since the 1998-99 campaign, and will be colliding for the first time at the Convocation Center.

Northern Illinois (3-5) vs. Chicago State (3-3)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008
Tip-off: 2 p.m. CST
Location: DeKalb, Ill.
Arena: Convocation Center
Television: None
Radio: Huskie Sports Radio Network
Bill Baker (play-by-play)
Casey Kahler (color commentary)
Flagship: WLBK-AM (1360, DeKalb)
WRHL-AM (1060, Rochelle)

Northern Illinois boasts a 20-0 all-time record against Chicago State, with the first all-time meeting between the Huskies and Cougars taking place during the 1948-49 season. The Huskies have won those 20 contests by an average of 14.8 points per game.

NIU and Chicago State have not played a regular-season game since Nov. 14, 1998, when the Huskies recorded an 89-72 win at Chick Evans Field House in DeKalb, Ill. The Cougars have never played at NIU's Convocation Center.

#32 Darion "Jake" Anderson, G
6-2 » 201 » So. » Chicago, Ill.
Carver Military Academy
AT AIR FORCE: Scored a team-high tying 15 points with a 6-of-8 effort from the free throw line, pulled down three rebounds, and had two assists and two steals -- committed just one turnover.
NOTEWORTHY: Has been the Huskies' leading scorer in each of the last four contests -- the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week.

#11 Mike DiNunno, G
5-11 » 177 » Fr. » Chicago, Ill.
Von Steuben
AT AIR FORCE: Scored a team-high tying 15 points on five three-point field goals, had two assists, two steals, one rebound and just one turnover in 31 minutes. NOTEWORTHY: Has six double-digit scoring efforts in his first eight collegiate games -- the MAC-West Co-Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 23.

#1 Bryan Hall, G
6-1 » 157 » Fr. » Chicago, Ill.
Whitney Young
AT AIR FORCE: Started the game, but did not record a statistic in three minutes of action -- was replaced by Jeremy Landers in the starting lineup at the beginning of the second half.
NOTEWORTHY: Has started the last seven games at point guard, and ranks third on the team in assists (12).

#2 Najul Ervin, F
6-5 » 214 » Jr. » Memphis, Tenn.
Mitchell/Kankakee CC
AT AIR FORCE: Scored one point after splitting his two free throw attempts -- was replaced by Sean Smith in the starting lineup at the beginning of the second-half. NOTEWORTHY: Has started 7-of-8 games this season, and ranks third on the team in rebounding (4.9).

#41 Sean Kowal, C
6-11 » 240 » So. » St. Louis, Mo.
Desmet Jesuit/Colorado
AT AIR FORCE: Scored eight points, and pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds, in 34 minutes.
NOTEWORTHY: Leads the Mid-American Conference in individual field goal percentage (.597), and is the Huskies' third-leading scorer (10.4 ppg).

» With its third win, Northern Illinois has already recorded half of its entire win total from the 2007-08 season. Last year, the Huskies didn't record their third victory until Dec. 29, 2007, after topping Arkansas-Little Rock, 59-55.
» Saturday's contest marks just the second home game for Northern Illinois this season. The Huskies recorded an 86-79 win over Indiana State in the home opener on Nov. 18.
» Chicago State is NIU's ninth non-conference opponent from eight different leagues this season. The Cougars are an NCAA Division I independent affiliate.
» Head coach Ricardo Patton will be eyeing his 10th win in his second years as the Huskies' mentor. Patton has a 6-7 record at the Convocation Center since taking over at Northern Illinois.
» The city of Chicago will be significantly on display Saturday between the Huskies and Cougars. A total of nine Chicago natives comprise the respective Northern Illinois and Chicago State rosters.
» Chicago State is the second of four NCAA Division I schools from the state of Illinois that NIU is slated to face this season. The Huskies defeated Western Illinois in the second game of the season (Nov. 15), and will also face Southern Illinois (Dec. 17) and Loyola-Chicago (Dec. 20) in non-conference action.
» Northern Illinois will play four-of its next five games at home. The Huskies will host Chicago State Saturday, before traveling to Arkansas-Little Rock on Dec. 14, and playing home contests against Southern Illinois (Dec. 17) and Loyola-Chicago (Dec. 20) in the final two non-conference games of the 2008 calendar year. NIU will open Mid-American Conference play at home against Toledo on Jan. 10.

The Northern Illinois men's basketball team (3-5) committed just 10 turnovers, but was held to a season-low 36.4 shooting percentage, in a 67-55 loss at the hands of host Air Force (5-2) at Crune Arena Wednesday night. The setback was the Huskies' second-straight non-conference defeat.

Darion "Jake" Anderson led the Huskies in scoring for the fourth-consecutive game, as he and freshman guard Mike DiNunno each scored a team-high 15 points. Sophomore center Sean Kowal corralled a career-high 11 rebounds, and senior Sean Smith had nine points off the NIU bench. Matt Holland's 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting (5-for-6 from three-point range) led a threesome of Falcons in double figures.

The Huskies shot just 29.6 percent from the field in the first-half, including a 26.7 percent mark from three-point range. Air Force held statistical advantages in rebounds (34-30) and assists (18-10), and converted 16-of-21 attempts from the free throw line. NIU was just 8-of-15 from the charity stripe.

Northern Illinois is 3-5 on the season with wins over Western Illinois (Nov. 15), Indiana State (Nov. 18) and Alaska Anchorage (Nov. 26), and losses against Maine (Nov. 14), Tennessee State (Nov. 21), Portland State (Nov. 26) and Western Carolina (Nov. 28). The Huskies' setbacks against Tennessee State (75-73) and Western Carolina (71-67) came by a combined six points. NIU is 1-0 at home on the season.

The Huskies, mentored by second-year head coach Ricardo Patton, return five lettermen and one starter (Darion "Jake" Anderson) from last year's 6-22 (3-12 MAC) team. In all, 10 players that were either red-shirted or did not play last season are members of the Northern Illinois active roster for the 2008-09 campaign.

Three players are averaging double-figures in scoring. Anderson, the 2008 Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year, averages a team-best 17.0 points per game and is also leading the team in field goals (41), free throws (40), rebounds (42), assists (20) and steals (15). Mike DiNunno scores 15.0 points per game and has drained a team-best 20 three-point field goals while averaging a team-high 34.0 minutes per game. Sean Kowal averages 10.4 points per game and leads both NIU and the MAC with a 59.7 field goal percentage.

On the defensive side, Anderson (15), DiNunno (11) and Najul Ervin (12) have combined to swipe 38 of the Huskies' 68 steals; while Kowal (9) and Ervin (8) have 17 combined blocks. NIU has shot 40.3 percent from the field, and held its opponents to a 44.5 field goal percentage. The Huskies are averaging 67.4 points per game, but have allowed 71.2 opponent points per contest.

Chicago State, under the leadership of head coach Benjy Taylor, comes into Saturday's contest with a 3-3 record, 0-2 on the road. The Cougars have recorded wins over Saint Xavier (Ill.), Mid-American Conference foe Central Michigan and Bethune-Cookman, while suffering losses versus Marquette, Northern Iowa and Mercer.

Guard David Holston leads a threesome of Cougars averaging double-figures in scoring, with 27.7 points per game. John Cantrell scores 17.7 points per contest, and Carl Montgomery has averaged 11.5 points per game.

The Cougars come into Saturday's contest averaging 84.8 points per game, and have allowed their opponents to score 82.7 points per outing. Taylor was the associate head coach at NIU from 1995-2000, helping the Huskies reach the NCAA Tournament in 1996 after posting a 20-10 record.

Northern Illinois' starting five is accounting for 67 percent of the point scoring early on this season. In the first eight games, NIU starters have had 18 double-digit scoring efforts. Darion "Jake" Anderson has tallied a team-high seven double-digit scoring outputs, while Mike DiNunno has chipped in six, and Sean Kowal has scored in double-figures five times this season.

NIU has seen seven newcomers crack the lineup this season, and they have all made a significant impact. Four newcomers have recorded starting assignments, and the seven players have combined for 278 of NIU's 539 points this season.

Several NIU players enter Saturday's game within reach of some significant individual milestones. Najul Ervin has 99 career rebounds, and is one carom away from equaling 100, and Michael Patton's 199 points put him just one point away from 200 for his career. Sean Smith's 92 career rebounds put him eight caroms away from equaling 100, and Sean Kowal is just 17 points away (83) from becoming the third NIU player to reach 100 points. Finally, Darion "Jake" Anderson has 186 career rebounds and is 14 away from 200; he is six assists away from 100 for his career with 94 entering Saturday, and has a career-active leading 478 career points, 22 away from 500.

A 12-year NCAA Division I head coaching veteran, NIU's Ricardo Patton (Belmont, 1980), is in his second season as head coach of the Huskies. He owns a 193-186 mark as the mentor at both Colorado and NIU, and has taken six teams to the postseason, with a pair of NCAA Tournament berths. He has coached three NBA Draft choices, including 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups.

Patton's staff includes Chicago native and associate head coach Dennis Gates, who was a four-year letterwinner at Cal. He came to DeKalb after three seasons as an assistant coach for his alma mater. Well-plugged into the Chicago metropolitan region, Gates is a 1998 graduate of Chicago Whitney Young High School, where he helped the Dolphins to the 1998 IHSA and Class `AA' state championship.

Assistant coach Sundance Wicks is in his third season as a member of Patton's staff, having served one season as an assistant coach at Colorado, and coming to DeKalb after Patton took over the head coaching duties at NIU. He also coached at his alma mater, Northern State, under legendary head coach Don Meyer.

Memphis, Tenn., native Will Smith was elevated from director of basketball operations to assistant coach in May. Smith played under Patton at Colorado from 1996-2000. Former Alaska Anchorage letterwinner (2002-04) Scott Stevens is the program's director of basketball operations.

Northern Illinois has won two-of its three games this season when scoring 70 points. The Huskies scored 86 points in the home-opening win over Indiana State (Nov. 18), and recorded a 71-68 win over host Alaska Anchorage on Nov. 28. NIU is 0-4 this season when failing to reach the 70-point plateau.

Northern Illinois' three 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, recorded a 41.9 percent (26-of-62) mark in their win over Indiana State, and shot 41.7 percent (25-of-60) in the win over Alaska Anchorage. NIU was exactly 40 percent from the field in their loss against Western Carolina.

Northern Illinois has had the same starting lineup in each of the last seven contests, but head coach Ricardo Patton has re-shuffled his starting five for the second half in the last two games. In Wednesday's game against Air Force, Sean Smith and Jeremy Landers replaced Najul Ervin, and Bryan Hall, respectively, at the outset of the second frame. The Huskies' starting lineup over the last six games has consisted of Darion "Jake" Anderson, Mike DiNunno, Hall, Ervin and Sean Kowal.

Through eight games, Northern Illinois' won-loss fate has been heavily dependent on its success during the opening 20 minutes of the game. When the Huskies lead at halftime, they are 2-0 on the season; when NIU trails at intermission, it is just 1-5.

Northern Illinois is the only team in the Mid-American Conference West-Division this season to have two players earn Player of the Week honors from the league office. Mike DiNunno was named the MAC-West Co-Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 23, and Darion "Jake" Anderson is the current West Division Player of the Week.

Mike DiNunno and Darion "Jake" Anderson each chalked up all-tournament honors in the first four weeks of the season. DiNunno was named to the all-tournament team at the 100 Club Classic in Kennesaw, Ga., and Anderson collected the same honor at the Great Alaska Shootout.

Sean Smith, the Huskies' lone senior, played just a combined five minutes in the first three games of the season, including not seeing action in Northern Illinois' win over Western Illinois on Nov. 15. But since, he has become a regular member of the rotation, and a valuable offensive threat. In the past four games, Smith has averaged 12.5 points per game, including a career-high 19 points against Alaska Anchorage on Nov. 28.

Sophomore center Sean Kowal and senior forward Sean Smith, who started alongside in each other in NIU's frontline during the second half of the Huskies' 67-55 loss at Air Force, boast an impressive combined statistic heading into Saturday's game versus Chicago State. Kowal (.597) and Smith (.590) own the respective first and second individual field goal percentages in the MAC.

Sean Kowal

Northern Illinois' bench has out-scored its counterparts 163-121 this season, but has made an even stronger impact as of late. The Huskie reserves have out-scored their opponents' bench players in each of the last three games, including a 16-6 advantage over Air Force on Wednesday.

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. Heading into Saturday's game against Chicago State, Anderson currently ranks in the top-20 of all three of those categories this season.

Sophomore center Sean Kowal has been a steady inside presence for the Huskies early this season. Kowal has scored in double-digits in six games, and is coming off a career-best 11-rebound effort against host Air Force Wednesday night.

Defending Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year Darion "Jake" Anderson enters Saturday's game as the Huskies' leading scorer and rebounder, 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 17.0), three-point percentage (.227 to .359) and rebounds per game (5.1 to 5.3). He passed the 400-career point plateau against Tennessee State, and enters Saturday's game with 478 career points.

Northern Illinois' starting backcourt tandem of Mike DiNunno and Darion "Jake" Anderson are the only two players to score more than 100 points, and have accounted for 47 percent of the Huskies' scoring this season. DiNunno and Anderson have also combined for 34 three-point field goals through eight games.

Northern Illinois' rebounding margin is -0.4 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 four-of its eight foes, and is averaging a MAC-second-best 13.75 offensive caroms per game. The Huskies are 3-0 this season when out-rebounding their opponents.

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 were slated to 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 welcomed back their top three-point shooter, sophomore Michael Patton, who converted a team-high 35 three-point field goals in 2007-08.

Northern Illinois head men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton bolstered his Windy City recruiting ties in the early signing period, when 6-foot-4, 190-pound guard Tony Nixon signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his education and basketball career with the Huskies. Nixon, a South Holland, Ill., product, is in his senior season at Seton Academy. He is the fifth recruit in the Patton era to hail from the Chicago metropolitan area.



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