Northern Illinois (2-6) at DePaul (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 16, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Allstate Arena (18,000) -- Rosemont, Illinois. Television: None. Home Record: NIU 2-2, DePaul 4-1. Away Record: NIU 0-4, DePaul 3-0. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, DePaul 0-2. Conference Record: NIU 0-0, DePaul 0-0. Series Record: DePaul leads, 24-6.
GAME NOTES:The DePaul Blue Demons will look to make it six in a row when the Northern Illinois Huskies invade Allstate Arena for a non-conference duel between a pair of schools from the Land of Lincoln.
NIU suffered an 80-73 loss at Milwaukee on Dec. 7 which dropped its record to 2-6. The Huskies are 0-4 on the road after being defeated by Nebraska Omaha (77-64), Valparaiso (69-46) and Dayton (60-43) prior to their bout with the Panthers. Now in his second season at the helm of the program, coach Mark Montgomery has a career record of 7-32. His team this season is very inexperienced as freshmen have accounted for 64.7 percent of the minutes and sophomores are responsible for another 18.2 percent. The Huskies are scoring only 56.9 ppg on 38.8 percent shooting from the floor and allowing their opposition to net 63.1 ppg with a 43.4 field goal percentage.
DePaul earned its fifth consecutive win on Wednesday by completing a 78-61 rout of Arizona State on the road. The Blue Demons began their winning streak with a seven-point triumph over Fairfield and then took down Auburn (80-76), Chicago State (74-64), and Milwaukee (84-50). Coach Oliver Purnell's unit is now 7-3 thanks to its recent surge. The Blue Demons are much more efficient on the offensive end than the visitors with an average of 77.2 ppg on 45.6 percent field goal shooting. DePaul's opposition has managed 67.1 ppg.
This will be the first contest for the Blue Demons since DePaul and the six other members of the Big East that do not play FBS football announced they will be leaving the league to build a league that focuses on basketball.
These schools that are separated by just 64 miles have met 30 times. DePaul owns a 24-6 all-time series lead after its 75-52 victory in last season's matchup in DeKalb.
After trailing by 11 points in the early stages of the second half, NIU rallied back to force overtime where it went just 1-of-9 from the field. The Huskies received a huge boost from their bench primarily due to freshman guard Akeem Springs's career-high 21-point and seven-rebound performance. Sophomore swingman Abdel Nader tallied 17 points and rookie forward Sam Mader contributed 10. The contest was the debut for Nader, who served a season- opening suspension for violating team rules. Nader's presence on the floor will be a big help as he was honored as a Preseason All-MAC selection after producing 10.4 points and 4.2 boards per outing as a freshman.
DePaul took a 42-33 lead into halftime versus Arizona State before knocking down 55.2 percent of its field goal attempts in the second half to maintain a comfortable edge on the scoreboard until the final buzzer. The Blue Demons dominated inside as they outscored the hosts 12-6 on second chance points and held a 44-34 edge in the rebounding battle. Junior guard Brandon Young was terrific on his way to 18 points and nine assists, while Cleveland Melvin notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 boards. Worrel Clahar added 14 points and Moses Morgan connected on 5-of-6 attempts from the field to net 11 points. Melvin (17.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Young (16.9 ppg, 4.7 apg) are DePaul's primary offensive weapons, but the team is going to be much more dangerous if the supporting cast continues to be effective.
Although the Blue Demons have losses to Gardner-Webb and Western Kentucky on their resume already, they have been on fire since losing to the Hilltoppers. DePaul is not quite ready to compete for a Big East title, but it should be fine for the rest of its non-conference slate.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: DePaul 80, Northern Illinois 60
12/16 10:34:04 ET