NIU Men's Hoops Edges San Jose State At Buzzer, 80-78

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GO HUSKIES

GO HUSKIES

December 29, 2005

Box Score

Hughes' Lay-Up At Buzzer Helps NIU To 80-78 Victory Over San Jose State

Bozeman, MT - Northern Illinois University junior center James Hughes' tip-in with 0.5 seconds remaining in regulation proved to be the difference as the Huskies edged San Jose State, 80-78, in the opening game of Montana State's Holiday Stores GranTree Classic at the Worthington Arena on Thursday night.

"It wasn't really a play that we had worked on," NIU head coach Rob Judson said. "We didn't have a play, but we had a concept which was to screen and slip.

"We wanted Todd (Peterson) to take it out because he's tall and could pass over the defender and Anthony (Maestranzi) and Mike (McKinney) made some good cuts," Judson continued. "When James' man turned his head to help on the cut, we threw it up and he tipped it in."

Hughes finished the contest with 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting and a tournament-record five blocks in the contest. Senior guard Cory Sims topped the Huskies with 18 points, 15 in the second half, and a career-best seven rebounds, while junior guard Mike McKinney was a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor to finish with 12 points and five boards.

SJSU senior forward Alex Elam led four Spartan players in double-figures with a career-high 22 points, followed by Demetrius Brown (15 points), Carlton Spencer (14 points) and Matt Misko (11 points).

With the victory, NIU improves to 6-2 on the season, matching their best start since the 1999-2000 campaign. San Jose State falls to 4-8 overall.

The Huskies move on to the championship contest against the winner of Thursday night's showdown between North Dakota State and the host Bobcats for an 9:05 p.m. (CST) tip-off on Friday evening.

For the game, NIU shot 58.8% (30-for-51) from the floor, marking the fifth time this season the Huskies have done so. The Huskies were a torrid 65.2% (15-for-23) from field goal range in the opening 20 minutes, but only had a three-point lead to show for it heading into the intermission at 38-35.

The second half was a see-saw affair that saw 14 lead changes and eight ties, with SJSU building their biggest lead at 56-51 with 11:51 left in regulation.

"With 11:51 left in the game, we were down by five, we talked about the fact that we needed a lot more energy defensively and it was gut-check time," Judson said. "We battled it out possession by possession down the stretch and thought we made some big plays and some big stops."

Sims led a 5-0 run over the next minute with four points to even the score at 56-apiece with 10:34 left in the contest. Both teams would trade baskets over the next nine minutes before a pair of Sims free throws would give NIU the 76-74 advantage with 1:25 left in the game.

SJSU answered immediately with a pair of Brown free throws to knot the game up at 76 with 1:07 remaining. On the ensuing possession, Sims was whistled for a foul, his fifth of the game and turned the ball over to the Spartans with 45 ticks left.

Sophomore guard Zach Pancratz (8 points) quickly picked up his teammate with a steal and a driving lay-up to put the Huskies' ahead, 78-76.

Elam, however, would not let his team go away quietly as the senior forward went to the line and calmly dropped a pair of the free throws to knot the game up at 78 with eight seconds remaining.

NIU senior point guard Anthony Maestranzi (3 points) drove the length of the floor, but the ball was tipped out of bounds by the Spartans, setting up an inbound play for the Huskies with two seconds remaining.

The first attempt by the Huskies was unsuccessful, but they were able to keep the ball with 0.5 seconds left.

Following a SJSU time-out, NIU senior forward Todd Peterson threw the ball inbounds from the baseline and found Hughes breaking to the basket for the winning score.

"I just heard Coach say 'Screen, Slip' and I just tried to set a screen for Anthony (Maestranzi) and I just slipped to the goal and it was wide open," Hughes said. "Todd threw a great pass, I jumped up and tipped it in."

(For further information, please contact Matt Brendich) - NIU -