Northern Illinois (5-22) at Toledo (13-13)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 5, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Savage Arena (7,300) -- Toledo, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: NIU 3-11, Toledo 7-4. Away Record: NIU 2-11, Toledo 5-9. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, Toledo 1-0. Conference Record: NIU 3-11, Toledo 8-6. Series Record: Toledo leads, 40-23.
GAME NOTES: The Toledo Rockets look to take the first step towards securing the fourth seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament as they host the Northern Illinois Huskies at Savage Arena.
The Rockets defeated NIU, 69-64, on Feb. 2 in DeKalb in the opening bout of the season series. NIU was unable to defend its home court despite outscoring Toledo, 17-8, in bench points and also, 9-2, in second-chance points. The win improved Toledo to 40-23 against the Huskies in history.
NIU has also gone some time without a triumph as it suffered a 69-50 setback at home to Central Michigan on Saturday to mark its eighth straight fruitless outing. The slump has dropped the Huskies to a 3-11 record both at home and also in conference action. Abdel Nader paces the Huskies with 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per tilt, but he is converting only 33.7 percent of his shots from the floor. The Huskies have clearly been struggling due to a lack of senior leadership. Freshmen and sophomores have accounted for 81.9 percent of the minutes played.
Nader did not play in the team's last outing. With the leading scorer out of action, freshman guard Mike Davis led the team with 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the floor in the Huskies' loss to CMU over the weekend. Aksel Bolin and Darrell Bowie tallied 11 points apiece. NIU went 22-of-53 (41.5 percent) from the floor against the Chippewas to break a streak of two games being held under 50 points and also a four-game streak of shooting 39 percent from the field or worse.
Tod Kowalczyk's Rockets had been making a late push for the West Division crown before they were dealt back-to-back losses by Western Michigan (65-62) and Ball State (86-72). Toledo will clinch the fourth seed in the MAC Tournament if its wins on Tuesday and also on Saturday at Eastern Michigan in its regular season finale. The loss to Ball State dropped Toledo to 7-4 at home in 2012-13.
Rian Pearson is leading the Rockets and the conference in scoring with 18.2 ppg, while also placing seventh in the league with 7.0 rebounds per outing. Julius Brown adds 13.2 ppg and 5.7 apg to the mix. In the Ball State setback, Toledo went the final five minutes without a field goal and scored just three points during that stretch. The Rockets were held to 38.3 percent shooting from the floor and allowed the Cardinals to connect on 54.7 percent of their field goal tries including 12-of-24 from 3-point range. Toledo had drained eight 3- pointer in three consecutive games after making no more than seven in its previous 15 outings.
The end of the season cannot come soon enough for NIU, which has endured yet another difficult campaign. The Rockets should have no problem completing the season sweep as their top two scorers are capable of outscoring the Huskies themselves.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Toledo 69, Northern Illinois 53
03/05 10:44:55 ET