Huskies Wrap up Road Trip at UIC Saturday Afternoon

GO HUSKIES Kowal scored nine points at Minnesota.
Kowal scored nine points at Minnesota.

Dec. 17, 2009

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NORTHERN ILLINOIS (1-6) AT ILLINOIS-CHICAGO (2-6) » December 19, 2009 » 3 p.m. » UIC Pavilion (Chicago, Ill.) » 3 p.m.

Match-Up At-a-Glance
Arena: UIC Pavilion (8,000)
Tip-off: 3 p.m. Central Standard Time
Radio: Northern Illinois ISP Sports Network (Flagship WLBK, 1360, DeKalb)
Cybercast: Horizon League Network (FREE Live Video)
Live Stats: (Gametracker)
Social Media Coverage:;
Series Record/Streak: UIC leads, 20-14/L2

DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois (1-6) will play its second-of three road games in the Chicagoland region Saturday, when the Huskies travel to the Windy City to take on Illinois-Chicago (2-6) at the UIC Pavilion beginning at 3 p.m. The rivalry dates back more than 30 years, but the Huskies and Flames will be meeting for the first time since the 2006-07 campaign.

Northern Illinois is coming off Tuesday's 89-48 loss at Minnesota, marking the Huskies' largest margin of defeat in more than two years. Junior guard Xavier Silas' return to the Huskie lineup was not enough to slow down the host Gophers, who claimed their fourth-straight double-digit win behind a record-setting eight three pointers by Blake Hoffarber.

UIC recorded its second win of the season Wednesday night, outlasting visiting Oregon State at the UIC Pavilion, 63-61. Robo Kreps drove in for the go-ahead layup with 5.6 seconds left to cap a rally from a seven-point deficit in the game's final three minutes. The Flames are 2-1 at home this season, with wins over the Beavers and Illinois-Springfield (11/13/09), and a four-point defeat to Illinois State on Nov. 23.

Northern Illinois will jumpstart a three-game non-conference homestand next Tuesday (12/22/09), when the Huskies host Maryland-Eastern Shore at the Convocation Center in a rare 1 p.m. tip-off. After starting out the season 0-5, the Hawks have now won three-straight, including an 80-72 win over Navy on Dec. 9.

Northern Illinois and Illinois-Chicago will be meeting for the first time since the 2006-07 season, and for 35th time in the all-time series ... The Huskies and Flames have three common opponents this season; Central Michigan, Akron and Toledo ... Illinois-Chicago represents the eighth in-state non-conference foe the Huskies have played under third-year head coach Ricardo Patton ... In Northern Illinois' current four-game losing streak, the Huskies are averaging 51.5 points per game, shooting 33.8 percent from the field (16.5 percent from three-point range), being out-rebounded by more than two caroms per game (36.8-34.5) and have an assist-turnover ratio of -1.78 (37 assists, 66 turnovers) ... NIU's previous four road games this season came against 2009 postseason teams, including three that advanced to the NCAA Tournament (Illinois, Northern Iowa and Minnesota) ... Sophomore guard Mike DiNunno, who recorded his first start since Nov. 22 on Tuesday at Minnesota, enters Saturday's game with 399 career points, and 93 career assists ... Senior center Ante Dzepina enters the contest with 96 career rebounds in his one-plus year career at NIU, and is four caroms away from equaling 100 -- Dzepina has pulled down four rebounds twice this season ... Junior center Sean Kowal has 190 career rebounds in his second season at NIU -- tying his season-high of 10 rebounds would give Kowal his 200th career rebound as a Huskie.

» Pick up its first road win of the season
» Record its first win over UIC in the Windy City since Jan. 28, 1993, a span of nine games
» Break a six-game losing streak versus Horizon League foes, dating back to the 2005-06 season

» Drop its 40th road game in the last 45 tries, dating back to the 2006-07 season
» Record at least a five-game losing streak for the fourth-consecutive season
» Drop its third-straight decision to UIC, including its ninth-consecutive loss to the Flames in Chicago

Northern Illinois enters Saturday's game with a 1-6 overall record, and has dropped four-straight contests. The Huskies have played four teams that appeared in the postseason following the 2008-09 season, including two that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. NIU is 0-4 on the road in the early going, falling to hosts Northwestern (11/13/09), Illinois (11/17/09), Northern Iowa (11/28/09) and Tuesday at Minnesota.

Through seven games, the Huskies are being led offensively by juniors Darion "Jake" Anderson (12.0 ppg) and Sean Kowal (9.6 ppg). Junior guard Xavier Silas made his return to the Huskie lineup on Tuesday after sitting out the previous five games with a fractured second metacarpel in his right hand -- Silas is averaging 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in two appearances verus Big Ten Conference foes (Northwestern and Minnesota).

NIU is averaging 58.1 points per game, and allowing its opponents to score 69.7 points per contest. The Huskies are shooting 38.1 percent from the field, 21.9 percent from three-point range and 54.0 percent from the free throw line.

Illinois-Chicago enters Saturday's game with a 2-6 record, and both of its victories have taken place at the UIC Pavilion. The Flames are averaging 59.9 points per game on the season, but scoring nearly six points more (66.7) per home contest.

Zavion Neely and Robo Kreps have each scored 113 points on the season, and lead the Flames with 14.1 points per game. Jeremy Buttrell has added 8.9 points per contest to go along with a team-leading 6.4 rebounds per game. Eleven players on UIC's roster have averaged seven or minutes per outing.

UIC is averaging 59.9 points per game, and allowing its opponents to score 68.6 points per contest. The Flames are leading the Horizon League in defensive field goal percentage, holding their opposition to just a 41.3 percent clip. UIC ranks 10th in the Horizon in scoring offense, scoring margin (-8.8), free throw percentage (.657), field goal percentage (.376), three-point field goal percentage (.265), assists per game (9.4) and assist/turnover ratio (0.6).

Northern Illinois has recorded an 80-91 all-time record versus opponents affiliated with the Horizon League. The Huskies are 3-6 all-time versus Butler, 8-5 against Cleveland State, 3-4 versus Detroit, 16-16 against Loyola-Chicago, 5-24 versus Green Bay, 17-9 against Milwaukee, 11-8 versus Wright State, 3-1 against Youngstown State, and 14-20 all-time versus Illinois-Chicago.

As mentioned, Illinois-Chicago leads the all-time series versus Northern Illinois, 20-14. The Flames have won two-straight in the series, and five-of the last six meetings overall. From 1990-97, NIU and UIC shared membership in the Mid-Continent Conference, before the Huskies began their second stint in the Mid-American Conference.

Junior guard Xavier Silas, who fractured the second metacarpal bone on his right hand in Northern Illinois' season opener at Northwestern (11/13/09), returned to the Huskie lineup Tuesday night at Minnesota, and scored a team-high tying nine points on 4-of-15 shooting. Silas, a transfer from Colorado, knocked down three-of his first four shots, and played a total of 22 minutes, including 17 in the first half.

Silas made his return to the Huskie lineup Tuesday.

Junior Darion "Jake" Anderson, one of the Mid-American Conference's most consistent scorers the past two seasons, has seen his scoring average dip by more than four points per game this season, but has been on a tear in the rebounding department. The 6-foot-2 guard enters Saturday's game ranked second in the MAC in rebounding, averaging 8.0 caroms per game through seven contests. Anderson, who became just the third NIU guard in the Division I era to lead the Huskies in rebounding last season, currently boasts the nation's best rebounding average for a player standing 6-foot-2 or less.

Darion "Jake" Anderson, the Huskies' leader this season in points (84), rebounds per game (8.0), assists per game (3.1) and free throw percentage (.725), enters Tuesday's game as the only player in the Mid-American Conference to be ranked in the individual top-15 in scoring, rebounding and assists. Anderson scored a season-high 23 points versus Southeast Missouri (11/22/09), dished out a season-best six assists against Tennessee State (11/20/09), and twice tied his career-high with 13 rebounds -- he also corralled 10 rebounds at Illinois (11/17/09) in the second game of the season. Anderson is the Huskies' career active leader in points (917), rebounds (357), assists (166), steals (75), field goals (301), three-point field goals (71) and free throws (244) made, and total minutes played (1,953/30.5 mpg).

Sophomore point guard Bryan Hall entered his sophomore campaign known as much more of a facilitator than a scorer -- he ended his freshman season with just 41 points on only 40 field goal attempts. But this season, he has been much more aggressive on the offensive end. Hall has recorded two of his top-three career scoring outputs, and has done so in impressively efficient fashion. He is shooting 66.7 percent (14-of-21) from the field, which would rank as the fifth-best single season effort by an NIU player if the statistic would hold up at the end of the 2009-10 campaign.

The Huskies finished the 2008-09 season with 239 steals, which was the second-highest single-season total in program history, trailing just the 259 steals recorded during the 1994-95 campaign. NIU's 8.0 steal per game average was also the third-best total for a single-season. Darion "Jake" Anderson (46 steals) and Mike DiNunno (44) combined for 90 steals, with both efforts ranking in the top-15 individual marks in NIU history. This season, NIU is averaging 7.4 steals per game, which would qualify as the ninth-best single-season average in program history.

Northern Illinois' junior tandem of Darion "Jake" Anderson and Sean Kowal have each posted one double-double in the early going this season. Anderson's fifth-career double-double (23 points, 13 rebounds) came against Southeast Missouri on Nov. 22, while Kowal secured his third-career double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) in the previous contest versus Tennessee State (Nov. 20). Kowal nearly tallied his second-straight double-double against SEMO, falling just one rebound short with 14 points and nine caroms.

Junior center Sean Kowal led the Mid-American Conference in field goal percentage (.551) last season, but as all players do, he needs an occasional breather. The good thing for NIU head coach Ricardo Patton is that NIU doesn't take much of a step back when his reserves enter the game. Senior Ante Dzepina (.558) and redshirt sophomore Michael Fakuade (.580) are both shooting near 60 percent from the field for their careers. Notably, power forward Najul Ervin is shooting 50.0 percent (80-of-160) in his third season at NIU.

Freshman guard Tony Nixon, the lone member of Ricardo Patton's 2009-10 recruiting class, has wasted no time getting adjusted to college basketball. The 6-4, 200-pounder has started each of the last five games, and recorded respective season-high scoring outputs of 10 and 16 points against Illinois (Nov. 17) and Tennessee State (Nov. 20). Nixon is also averaging 25.1 minutes per game, fourth-highest on the team.

Northern Illinois head coach Ricardo Patton will be embarking on his 15th season as a Division I head coach in the 2009-10 campaign. After spending 12 years as the mentor at Colorado, Patton was hired as the Huskies' 26th head coach on March 19, 2007.

As the old cliche' goes, it's not how you start, but how you finish. But how it starts may be just as important for the Northern Illinois basketball team. Under head coach Ricardo Patton, when the Huskies lead at halftime, they have compiled a record of 14-6. When NIU trails at intermission, it is just 2-40 the past two-plus seasons.

When Northern Illinois has been on the positive side of the rebounding ledger the past two seasons, it has enjoyed significant success. Sixteen of the Huskies' 17 wins under head coach Ricardo Patton have occurred when NIU has out-rebounded its opponent.

One year after being picked to finish sixth in the Mid-American Conference West Division, Northern Illinois was slotted second in the 2009-10 preseason media poll, as announced by the conference office on Oct. 28. In addition, junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson was named to the preseason West Division All-MAC team for the second-consecutive season. The Huskies were picked second behind division favorite Central Michigan, who swept NIU last season.

In 2009-10, Northern Illinois returns 88 percent of its scoring, 79 percent of its rebounding and 87 percent of its assist totals from the 2008-09 season. The Huskies return 12 letterwinners, including four starters, and back are the Huskies' top-three scorers (Darion "Jake Anderson, 16.9 ppg; Mike DiNunno, 11.9 ppg and Sean Kowal, 9.4 ppg).



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