Northern Illinois (5-5) at (13) Iowa State (11-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, December 31, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hilton Coliseum (14,356) -- Ames, Iowa. Television: None. Home Record: NIU 3-3, ISU 6-0. Away Record: NIU 2-2, ISU 1-0. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, ISU 4-0. Conference Record: NIU 0-0, ISU 0-0. Series Record: Iowa State leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The 13th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones will attempt to continue the best start in program history on Tuesday night, as their non-conference schedule comes to a close against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Hilton Coliseum.
NIU has had an up-and-down start to the season at 5-5. The Huskies have been successful on their current road trip, winning two of three, including back- to-back wins over Loyola-Chicago (55-49) and UC Riverside (71-64).
Iowa State participated in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu last week and came away with victories over George Mason (79-67), Akron (83-60) and Boise State (70-66) en route to the championship. The Cyclones' 11-0 record has surpassed their previous best start of 10-0 during the 1996-97 season, and they've racked up a handful of signature wins at home versus Michigan (77-70) and Iowa (85-82) as well as at BYU (90-88).
The Cyclones won the most recent matchup with NIU in January of 2011, 72-63, to take a 3-2 lead in the all-time series.
Although the Huskies had the tough task of traveling to the west coast for their latest game, they stepped up to the challenge by outshooting UCR from the field, 45.2 percent to 35.7 percent on their way to an impressive seven- point victory. Dontel Highsmith shined in the victory, pouring in a career- high 27 points on 9-of-11 from the field (including 3-of-5 from 3-point range) and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Travon Baker added 13 points, while Aaron Armstead chipped in 11 points off the bench.
On the season, NIU has not impressed offensively, as it shoots just 40.8 percent from the field for 66.3 ppg, but it is able to make up for it with strong play on the defensive end of the floor, allowing just 64.3 ppg on 40.3 percent shooting. The Huskies are the rare team without a double-digit scorer, although eight players net at least 4.1 ppg. Darrell Bowie and Highsmith lead the way with 9.6 ppg apiece, while Bowie is the team's top rebounder as well with 6.4 per contest.
Iowa State snapped a 60-60 tie with a Dustin Hogue free throw with 3:47 left in its most recent contest and was able to hold on to the advantage down the stretch en route to the Diamond Head Classic championship. The squad shot an uncharacteristically low percentage from the field (.389), but they outscored Boise State from the free-throw line, 20-9, as they held BSU, a top-30 scoring offense nationally (82.5 ppg), to just 66 points. DeAndre Kane was fantastic in the triumph, putting up season-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Georges Niang registered 16 points, Melvin Ejim logged a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds and Hogue narrowly missed one with 13 points and nine boards.
Not only are the Cyclones one of the nation's best offensive squad -- they rank tied for sixth in scoring (87.2 ppg) on 48.4 percent from the field -- but they also play stout defense (.392 FG percentage defense, 68.0 ppg). Ejim (18.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg) and Hogue (13.5 ppg, 10.3 rpg) formulate an imposing duo in the frontcourt, with each shooting greater than 50 percent from the field. Niang (16.0 ppg) shoots just below 50 percent from the floor (.496), and Kane has also been productive with 14.9 ppg and 7.5 rpg.
Iowa State has dismissed every challenge thrown its way on the campaign, and hosting the inconsistent Huskies in this one, expect its early-season success to continue.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa State 85, Northern Illinois 67
12/31 10:33:25 ET