The Northern Illinois men's basketball team returns home after a three-game road swing to welcome Arkansas Little Rock for a 12 p.m. tip-off at the NIU Convocation Center on Saturday (Dec. 29) afternoon.
The Huskies (2-9), who are riding a two-game home winning streak, are coming off of a tough 86-75 defeat at the hands of Green Bay last Saturday (Dec. 22). NIU's sixth man, Jarvis Nichols, leads the offensive attack for the Huskies with 9.8 points-per-game.
Arkansas-Little Rock (9-2) saw their seven-game winning streak come to an end last Saturday, as Creighton earned the 80-61 triumph over the Trojans. The Trojans bring a balanced attack to the Convocation Center as guard De'Andre Eggins and forward Shane Edwards each are tops among UALR players with 9.1 points-per-game.
All-Time Series: This is the first meeting between these two teams.
Patton vs. The Sun Belt: NIU head coach Ricardo Patton is undefeated against Sun Belt opponents with a record of 5-0.
Paradise Out: Senior guard Ryan Paradise fractured his nose against Stephen F. Austin on November 24. The Naperville, Ill., native underwent surgery on Friday, November 30, and will be out indefinitely.
Like Father, Like Son: NIU head coach Ricardo Patton is one of 13 coaches across America, whose son is playing for his squad. Michael Patton is a freshman point guard for the Huskies, who is averaging 6.5 points-per-game.
Road Warrior: Freshman point guard Michael Patton was NIU's leading scorer in the three-game road trip the Huskies just completed, as he averaged 11.3 points and shot 40.9% (9-for-22) from three-point range.
Clutch Shooting: Northern Illinois guard Jarvis Nichols (4-for-4) is perfect from the free throw line with under two minutes remaining in the contest.
Logan's Run: NIU senior forward Shaun Logan has knocked down at least one trey in the last seven games. During that span, Logan is shooting 45.0% (9-for-20) from beyond the arc.
Sixth Man: NIU junior guard Jarvis Nichols is second in the Mid-American Conference in scoring off the bench, as the Huskies' sixth man is chipping in 9.8 points-per-game. Buffalo's Sean Smiley has come off the bench in all 11 of the Bulls' contests and is averaging 10.2 points-per-game. Both Nichols and Smiley have started less than one-third of their squads' contests.
Foul Trouble: NIU, who has been plagued by foul trouble this season, will have to be on its best behavior against the Trojans on Saturday, as UALR is averaging 17.5 points-per-game from the free throw line, which translates to 25.4% of their scoring output. The Huskies have had a player foul out 11 times this season, compared to 13 for the entire 2006-07 campaign.
Dejá Vu: Saturday's contest marks the fourth consecutive year that the Huskies have played on December 29. NIU is 2-1 in those games with victories over Texas A&M Corpus Christi (73-67, 2004), San Jose State (80-78, 2005) and a 67-63 loss against Marist (2006).
Bench Play: The NIU bench outscored the Huskie starters 45-30 in the 86-75 loss to Green Bay last Saturday, marking the fifth time this season that the reserves have accomplished that feat. That is the first time that has occurred in NIU's Division I history.
Productive Player: Senior forward Michael Hart is averaging 5.4 points and 11 minutes of action-per-game for the Huskies, which translates to a team-best 0.487 points-per-minute.
Are You Experienced?: Of NIU's 11 active players, the Huskies have six student-athletes who are in their first season of Division I basketball.
Are You Experienced? (Part Deux): NIU's freshman guards Darion Anderson, Jeremy Landers and Michael Patton are seeing plenty of time on the floor as the trio is averaging a combined 19.7 minutes-per-game.
Non-Conference Slate: As of December 27, NIU's non-conference opponents have a combined record of 81-47 (.633).
Calling All Alumni: NIU will hold its 8th Annual Alumni Day on February 2, prior to the Huskies' 2 p.m. showdown against Ohio. Doors will open at 10 a.m. with the Alumni game held at 11 a.m. at the NIU Convocation Center. For more information, contact NIU Director of Marketing Cindy Green at (815) 753-0369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Block Party: NIU, led by four blocks from senior forward Egan Grafel, recorded a season-high nine swats against Loyola on December 15. That marked the most blocks by a Huskie team since the 2003-04 campaign when NIU, led by six swats from all-time blocks leader James Hughes, notched 10 blocks against Miami (OH) on February 24, 2004.
Recruiting Class: NIU head coach Ricardo Patton has inked four student-athletes to National Letters of Intent, including guards Mike Dinunno (Chicago, Ill./Von Steuben), Bryan Hall (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young), Dominique Johnson (Detroit, Mich./Southwest Tennessee C.C.) and forward Tyler Storm (Geneseo, Ill./Geneseo) to play for the Huskies in 2008.
Lost Long Range: Senior Zach Pancratz is sitting out the 2007-08 season after undergoing left shoulder surgery to correct continued instability in his non-shooting arm. Last season, Pancratz led NIU with 51 trifectas.
Time Change: Tip-off for Northern Illinois' contest against Akron on February 12 has been changed from 6 p.m. (CST) to 7 p.m. (CST) as the game is now a part of the Mid-American Conference television schedule.
Up Next: NIU begins MAC play with a 1 p.m. (CST) tip-off on the road against Western Michigan on Sat., January 5.