GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos look to string together wins on Saturday when they clash with the Northern Illinois Huskies in a Mid-American Conference bout.
This will be the 81st meeting between WMU and NIU, with the Broncos holding a 51-29 advantage.
Coach Steve Hawkins has been quite successful as WMU's coach, as the program has won the MAC West title in five of the previous nine seasons. His Broncos will attempt to build upon their 79-56 rout of Toledo they pulled off on Wednesday. The Broncos dominated the Rockets inside with a 44-26 edge in rebounds and a 38-16 advantage in points in the paint to improve to 9-7 overall and 1-2 in the conference. WMU is ranked in the top half of the MAC in both scoring offense (65.8) and scoring defense (64.2).
Junior center Shayne Whittington has really stepped up his play as of late. Whittington recorded his second double-double in a row on Wednesday, finishing with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks to push the Broncos past Toledo. Darius Paul and David Brown each scored 15 points as WMU converted 49.2 percent of its field goal attempts. Whittington is tied for second on the team in scoring (11.3) with Paul, while they rank first (8.7) and second (6.1) in rebounding. Nate Hutcheson is atop the scoring column with 11.6 ppg.
NIU could not keep up with Ohio University its last time out and dropped an 81-63 decision to the Broncos in Athens. The loss dropped the Huskies to a 3-12 overall record, including their 1-2 MAC standing. Coach Mark Montgomery has toyed with the starting lineup all season hoping to find one that can execute. He may have found something in freshman swingman Darrell Bowie, who is posting 11.0 points and 5.7 rebounds per game over his last three outings. Bowie ranks first among freshman in conference play scoring, while Abdel Nader paces the team with 13.9 points per contest.
Bowie reached double digits for the third game in a row and Nader tallied 16 points and seven rebounds on Wednesday, but the team went 20-of-57 from the field (35.1 percent) including an ice cold 2-of-11 from beyond the arc (18.2 percent) to fall by 18 points to Ohio. The offensive woes have become routine for the Huskies, who own the MAC's second lowest scoring average at 58.1 ppg and worst field-goal percentage (.376). NIU is in the middle of the pack defensively with an allowed mark of 66.0 ppg, but the Bobcats did not appear to be frustrated at all and could have produced more than 81 points had they not committed 15 turnovers.
The Huskies are definitely a much better team with Bowie on the floor, but they will still be overmatched inside versus WMU. The Broncos are just 2-6 on the road this season, but they should be able to add another one to the win column in DeKalb.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 71, Northern Illinois 63
01/19 10:37:14 ET
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