Northern Illinois (5-24) at Eastern Michigan (14-17)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, March 11, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: EMU Convocation Center (9,500) -- Ypsilanti, Michigan. Television: None. Home Record: NIU 3-11, EMU 12-5. Away Record: NIU 2-13, EMU 2-12. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, EMU 0-0. Conference Record: NIU 3-13, EMU 7-9. Series Record: Northern Illinois leads, 50-33.
GAME NOTES: The Northern Illinois Huskies will try to overcome the Eastern Michigan Eagles and their stifling defense for a third time as the two square off in the first round of the 2013 Mid-American Conference Tournament at the Convocation Center.
The winner of this game will advance to take on the victor of the first round bout between (11) Miami-Ohio and (6) Bowling Green.
NIU closed out its regular season with 10 consecutive losses that dropped it to a 5-24 overall record. The 10th-seeded Huskies played one of their better games of the season on Saturday, as they led Ball State by as many as eight points before surrendering their lead for the first time with 5:13 remaining. Coach Mike Montgomery has not had Abdel Nader for the past three games and is most likely not going to get his leading and only double-digit scorer back for the MAC tourney.
The Huskies have had a season to forget, especially at the offensive end of the court. They come in averaging a league-worst 54.3 ppg on just 36 percent efficiency from the field, which is also the lowest in the MAC. Aksel Bolin is second on the team with 7.3 ppg on 42.1 percent shooting from the field and 32.4 percent shooting from 3-point range. Travon Baker and Daveon Balls each average 1.9 apg for NIU, which averages just 8.3 assists per game as a team.
NIU's offensive woes were never more apparent than in its first game against EMU this season. The Huskies broke their own NCAA Division I record for futility, scoring just four points in the first half of a 42-25 loss in Ypsilanti. They shot just 3.2 percent from the floor in the first half and went 8- of-61 (13.1 percent) from the field in the game. They also went 1- of-33 from beyond the arc, while EMU hit on 37.1 percent of its field goal tries to easily win.
EMU then completed the season-series sweep in DeKalb with a 59-47 road decision on Feb. 23. Rob Murphy's Eagles are coming off a 78-67 home loss to Toledo that marked their second consecutive setback. EMU is usually steady at the Convocation Center, where it owns an impressive 12-5 record that includes a win over Purdue. Senior guard Derek Thompson is leading the way offensively, tallying 11.2 points per game on 37.1 percent shooting from the field. Pacing the Eagles in rebounding is junior center Da'Shonte Riley, who is posting 5.7 boards and 1.9 blocks per game.
EMU is leading the MAC in scoring defense with an allowed average of just 59.1 ppg. The Eagles were out of their comfort zone against the Rockets, who pushed the tempo to a pace a little too quick for EMU's liking. Thompson paced EMU with 25 points and shot 5-of-10 from behind the arc. Glenn Bryant had 15 points and eight rebounds off the bench, while J.R. Sims notched 13 points. However, Toledo outscored it, 26-14, in the paint.
The Eagles' tough defensive shell will be much harder for the inefficient Huskies to crack. EMU dominated NIU twice this season and with much more at stake, should be able to do so a third time to advance.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eastern Michigan 61, Northern Illinois 47
03/11 10:32:15 ET