Second-half slump leads to 77-45 loss to Illinois-Chicago for NIU men's basketball



December 28, 2002

Box Score


DeKALB, IL - A six-minute stretch without a point spelled disaster for the Northern Illinois University men's basketball team in its Saturday (December 28) contest against the University of Illinois-Chicago. Following a dunk by P.J. Smith, to pull the Huskies within 12 points, the Flames proceeded to go on a 13-0 run to put the game out of hand as the visitors prevailed 77-45.


The loss is Northern Illinois' second in a row at home as their record falls to 4-6 on the year. Illinois-Chicago bounces back from only its third loss of the season to improve its mark to 7-3. The Flames have won the last three games in the series, but are triumphant for the first time in DeKalb since the 1997-98 campaign.


"I thought UIC played great," NIU head coach Rob Judson said. "Their effort showed. The board effort and field goal percentage defense, those are effort stats. Defensively they contested every shot and they beat us on the boards."


Two main areas plagued the hosts: shooting and rebounding. Northern Illinois made just six baskets in the second stanza (6-of-23) as their 26.1 percent shooting led to an overall rate of just 31.4 percent (16-of-51), by far its lowest of the season. On the glass the Flames dominated the game, grabbing 20 more rebounds (48-28)-the largest margin for any NIU opponent this year-including 18 offensive boards.


The 45 points scored by the Huskies are their fewest since posting 43 markers in an 81-43 loss to the University of Detroit on February 22, 1997, a span of 148 games. Not since Miami (OH) University beat Northern Illinois by a tally of 83-51 have the Huskies had this big of a deficit and it is also NIU's worst home court loss since an 81-48 defeat at the hands of Iona College on January 7, 1989.


Northern Illinois only had one player reach double figures on the stat sheet as Smith (Maywood / Proviso East) posted twin digits for the third straight game with a team-high 14 points. Forward Rome Sanders (Chicago / Curie) was next with nine points while Marcus Smallwood (Elgin) scored eight and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Redshirt freshman Bryson McKenzie (Gary / West Side) scored the first points of his collegiate career on a lay-up with one minute remaining while blocking a career-high three shots.


Four different Illinois-Chicago players tallied double figure scoring, led by forward Armond Williams who posted game highs with a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double. Jonathan Schneiderman was next with 15 points, including three three-pointers, while Aaron Carr followed with 14 points and eight boards. Northern Illinois held the Flames' leading scorer, Cedric Banks to 12 points below his 19.0 points per game average.


"I'm surprised by the margin, but my team can play when we stay focused and don't do crazy things," UIC floor boss Jimmy Collins said. "Northern Illinois was out of sync tonight. I applaud my team's defensive effort tonight. When you shoot that poorly and turn the ball over 15 times, it has to be the defense."


Throughout the first half the game was back and forth with the Huskies taking a three-point lead (10-7) on a Smith three pointer. Unfortunately that would be Northern Illinois' last advantage as the hosts scored just one point the next four minutes while UIC jumped out to an 18-11 lead. The Flames went into the locker room with a 40-29 advantage.


When the Huskies broke their second-half drought with a five-foot jumper by Smith, UIC's lead was up to 23 points (60-37), the lowest it would get the rest of the night. The margin reached as many 37 (77-40) on a Williams free throw with 2:36 remaining. Northern Illinois scored only 16 points in the second stanza, its lowest since Eastern Michigan University limited NIU to just 14 markers in a 51-48 loss on January 16, 1999.


The Huskies waste no time in getting back on the court as they travel to Eastern Illinois University for a 7:10 p.m. tip on Monday (December 30). NIU got its first road win of the year in 72-65 victory against Illinois State (December 21).


--Copy by Michael Smoose





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