Northern Illinois (5-18) at Western Michigan (15-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 16, 6 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Arena (5,421) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: SportsTime Ohio, ESPN3. Home Record: NIU 3-8, WMU 8-1. Away Record: NIU 2-10, WMU 5-8. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, WMU 2-0. Conference Record: NIU 3-8, WMU 7-4. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 52-29.
GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos hope to turn things around as they host the Northern Illinois Huskies at University Arena for a Mid-American Conference tilt.
This will be the 82nd matchup between these schools in history and second of the 2012-13 season. The Broncos cruised to a 71-34 rout of NIU in DeKalb on Jan. 19 as the Huskies went 11-of-55 from the floor and 4-of-22 from 3-point range in the bout.
The Broncos lost, 70-60, at Bowling Green on Wednesday to mark their second straight setback following a seven-game winning streak. WMU is now tied with Toledo for first place in the West Division standings with a 7-4 MAC record. Both the recent losses occurred on the road, and the team should benefit from a return to University Arena where it is 8-1 on the season. Coach Steve Hawkins has seen solid play on both ends of the floor by his Broncos, who are fifth in the conference in scoring (67.1) and fourth in scoring defense (63.3).
Mark Montgomery's visiting Huskies are also hoping to reverse their fortunes after being defeated in their last four outings. NIU fell, 56-52, to Ball State on Wednesday to drop to 5-18 on the campaign including a 3-8 mark in league action. The Huskies have not been terrible on the road during MAC play, going 2-3 in league rivals' gymnasiums with the most recent setback coming by just five points at Buffalo. NIU is most likely going to struggle producing in this one, as it only scores 55.7 ppg and has been held under 55 points in three consecutive games.
In the loss to BGSU, Nate Hutcheson tied for the Broncos' team-lead with 14 points that pushed him past the 1,000 mark for his career. Austin Richie also tallied 14 points while Shayne Whittington recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 13 points and 15 boards. WMU played from behind for much of the contest as it allowed the Falcons, who are not known for their offensive abilities, to shoot 50 percent from the field. Whittington paces the team in both scoring (12.7 ppg) and rebounding (8.7 rpg) while Hutcheson chips in 11.3 points per tilt.
NIU came out of the gates with some intensity in their mid-week matchup with the Cardinals to take an early eight-point lead. Ball State wore down the deficit before taking a nine-point lead of its own. The Huskies fought back after the break and were on top, 45-44, with 4:13 left to play, but they were unable to cling to the lead or tie the score in the closing seconds. Antone Christian netted 14 points off the bench to register a team-high, while Darrell Bowie chimed in with 11. Abdel Nader, who leads the team in scoring (13.7) and rebounding (5.5), went 1-of-13 from the floor to tie his season-low with five points.
Had Nader not put on one of the worst shooting displays of his short career, NIU could have knocked off Ball State. The Cardinals were responsible for the conclusion of WMU's seven game winning streak as well. Although WMU coasted to a win in the first matchup, these squads are playing on a much more even level for the sequel. The Broncos will hold an edge due to their interior superiority, but NIU is guaranteed at the very least to provide a strong defensive effort.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 63, Northern Illinois 55
02/16 10:34:53 ET