Scores A Season-High 16 Points As Northern Illinois Hands St. Bonaventure
A 71-62 Loss
TX - Anthony Maestranzi scored a season high 16 points and Northern
Illinois University buried a season-high tying 11 three-pointers
to lead the Huskies to a 71-62 win over St. Bonaventure in the opening
round of the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Flint Hills Invitational
on Tuesday (Dec. 28) evening.
The Huskies overcame their second halftime deficit in three tries,
outscoring the Bonnies 44-34 in the second period to even their
overall record at 4-4. The Huskies also trailed Eastern Illinois
34-32 in Charleston (Dec. 11) before rallying for a 76-60 win. Northern
Illinois will play either the host Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Islanders or the Alcorn State Braves in the championship game on
Wednesday (Dec. 29) at 7 p.m. (CST).
Northern Illinois was forced to play the contest with a short bench
as starters Mike McKinney and Paige Paulsen were reduced to limited
roles because of injury and illness. McKinney played was a severely
strained lower back after being involved in an auto accident where
his car slid on the ice and into a fixed object. Paulsen battled
through a bout with food poison, which was suffered Dec. 26, the
night before the team traveled to Corpus Christi, TX.
"Teams face adversity all the time, you just have to keep fighting,"
head coach Rob Judson said. "Sure, we had a couple of starters
dinged up, but you still have to play the game. You have to pick
up the slack somewhere. Our team finally found its stride in the
second half. We were down by seven a few times, but each time our
team dug in defensively and made plays. Defense led to our offensive
opportunities and that's how we got back in the game.
"Both Paige and Mike haven't practiced since the Kansas State
game (Dec. 21) because of the holiday break, so they had some rust
in addition to the other circumstances. They will continue to get
into the flow and we have a great opportunity on Wednesday to win
As Judson alluded to, the Huskies trailed by seven points on four
occasions in the final 15 minutes (as late as 10:56) before starting
their response. Maestranzi led NIU's ferocious comeback (17-3 run
over the next 6:26) to give the Huskies a 59-51 lead. A 5-foot-10
junior from Bartlett, IL, Maestranzi scored 11 of the team's 16
points during the run on three, 3-pointers and a pair of free throws.
NIU also played great defense during the stretch, holding the Bonnies
to just three free throws and 0-of-4 shooting from the field. Northern
Illinois also forced four turnovers, which they converted into six
points, both Maestranzi triples.
"I've been shooting the ball with a lot more confidence lately
and that makes a world of difference," Maestranzi said. "It
started with the Kansas State game and opportunities just presented
themselves today. We got off to a slow start, but we came together.
We didn't play real crisply in the first half, but the second half
showed our desire to win this game."
Northern Illinois fought off one last-gasp comeback attempt by St.
Bonaventure as James Hughes rebounded a Todd Peterson jumper and
rattled home a five-foot hook to push NIU's lead back to five, 61-56.
Hughes was also fouled on the play and Peterson rebounded his miss
to help the Huskies "milk" the final 1:38 off the clock.
NIU then hit 11-of-12 free throws down the stretch to thwart any
hopes of a St. Bonaventure rally.
Northern Illinois relied heavily on the three in the first half
to remain within a point (28-27) at the break. While St. Bonaventure
outscored the Huskies 16-2 in the paint, NIU buried 5-of-11 three-pointers
to counteract the Bonnies' solid inside play. Five different Huskies
hit treys, including Peterson, who opened the game by scoring five
of NIU's first-six points. However, SBU scored the next seven to
build a 12-6 lead at the 12:49 mark and force the Huskies to use
their first timeout.
The St. Bonaventure lead hovered around the six-point mark for the
next four minutes until an 8-2 run by the Huskies knotted the contest
at 20-20. McKinney and Zach Pancratz each connected on three-pointers,
while Peterson hit a 12-foot jumper on the wing.
Peterson and Pancratz joined Maestranzi in double figures, pouring
in 13 and 10 points respectively. Now sixth in NIU school history
for three-pointers (131), Peterson hit 3-of-7 three pointers and
is now shooting 17-of-35 (.486) over his last six games from bonus
distance. Pancratz helped safeguard NIU's lead by connecting on
4-of-4 free throws in the final minute.
44 second-half points tied for the most in a half this season. The
Huskies also scored 44 in the second half of their 76-60 win at
Eastern Illinois (Dec. 11) and 44 in the first half of their 84-69
win at DePaul (Nov. 27).
· Despite playing with the sore back, Mike McKinney dished
out a career high six assists while committing just one turnover.
The Huskies again had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio as they
dished 16 dimes compared to 13 turnovers.
· Northern Illinois tied a season high with 11 three-pointers.
NIU also hit 11 treys at DePaul (Nov. 27).
· Northern Illinois outrebounded its sixth opponent of the
season. The Huskies trailed on the glass 19-14 at the break, but
outrebounded St. Bonaventure 18-12 in the second half secure a 32-31
· McKinney also led the way on the glass, grabbing a season-high
tying eight boards to pace the Huskies. Despite being a 6-foot-4
guard, McKinney now leads the team with 6.1 rebounds per game.
· Northern Illinois made a season high 20 free throws and
attempted a season-best 28 charity shots.