Maestranzi Scores A Season-High 16 Points As Northern Illinois Hands St. Bonaventure A 71-62 Loss

GO HUSKIES
GO HUSKIES

GO HUSKIES
December 28, 2004

Maestranzi Scores A Season-High 16 Points As Northern Illinois Hands St. Bonaventure A 71-62 Loss

Box Score

CORPUS CHRISTI, 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 a championship."

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.


Game Notes:

· NIU's 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 rebounding advantage.

· 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.