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
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.