DePaul vs. Northern Illinois Game Preview

The Blue Demons head to Dekalb to take on the NIU Huskies on Monday night.

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DePaul Blue Demons vs. Northern Illinois – Monday, November 28th, 7:05 p.m. – NIU Convocation Center, Dekalb, IL

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DePaul men's basketball coach Jerry Wainwright likes to tell a joke about the best places to coach. One is an orphanage, because there are no parents. The other is prison, because there are no alumni. There is another part to that joke, Wainwright appears to have forgotten. If you coach in prison, there are no road games. On Monday night, the Blue Demons begin the first of their five non-conference road games at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb. Here is Dan Stack's preview of the game…

The last time DePaul faced Northern Illinois, well it was a game most fans would rather forget, with DePaul being trounced at home by a score of 84-69. That day NIU didn't see a shot they didn't like, and that led to a 55% clip from the field and 50% from 3 point range. NIU seemingly could not miss. The Huskies were led by Paige Paulsen's 19 points. The good news is he is gone, as he has transferred to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. On that day DePaul was as cold as NIU was hot. DePaul shot only 41%. Drake Diener tried keeping DePaul in the contest with a game high 22 points, but it was to no avail.

Revenge always plays an integral part in sports. And DePaul must be champing at the bit to exact some payback. This time the setting is NIU's Convocation Center. DePaul, in its pursuit for an NCAA tournament bid last year was hampered by its early season losses to Bradley, Northwestern, and Northern Illinois, so with that in mind DePaul is hungry to make up for those defeats. As said earlier, the main culprit in the Huskies win last year is gone with Paulsen moving on to Wisconsin-Milwaukee. However, the Huskies do return some firepower. Back from last years team is guard Mike McKinney who is their leading returning scorer at 12.6 PPG. Also returning is backcourt mates Cory Sims (9.6 PPG) and Anthony Maestranzi (6.9 PPG). This is an experienced core that will test DePaul's backcourt. All can shoot and distribute the ball. That is not all in the backcourt. Look for Zach Pancrantz (5.9 PPG) to be emotionally charged knowing that his father Andy is former Blue Demon. And pay attention to Iowa transfer Ben Rand who was a heralded recruit from Rochelle, Illinois.

That is just the backcourt, the Huskies do boast some weapons in the frontcourt. Back is Todd Peterson (11.3 PPG), a sweet shooting forward who also was deadly against the Demons last year when he complemented the Huskies with 15 points, all on 5-6 shooting from 3 point land. Look for 6-11 junior center James Hughes (9.4 PPG) to get a lot of looks inside.

For DePaul, they have to get back to the drawing board and the first order of business is to take care of the ball. In their game against Bradley, the Demons coughed it up 23 times (with guards Cliff Clinkscales and Sammy Mejia each turning it over 5 times). Both guards are talented players and the have to buckle down and make good decisions. Mejia after all is the leading returning scorer with an 11.8 avg. One bright spot in the game was the play of Miami (Fl) transfer Karron Clarke. Clarke, a 6-5 athletic wing, was 6-8 from the floor and 5-5 from the charity stripe to lead DePaul with 19 points. He also chipped in 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks.

Also pleasant was the play of Marcus Heard. Heard, a 6-7 junior, also played inspired ball by posting career high 15 points while connecting on all 3 of his 3 point attempts.

Head Coach Jerry Wainwright in his first year at DePaul did not sugar coat the loss. "You can put this one on me because I've always believed that players win games and coaches lose games," Wainwright said. "We have to give Bradley a lot of credit, they are a very experienced team that made the right passes at the right time and showed the poise that veteran teams have. We will bounce back."

Bounce back they did with a 59-49 win over Northwestern on Saturday. DePaul has little time to enjoy that victory with the trip to NIU looming on Monday night.

As demoralizing as the Bradley loss was for DePaul, the Huskies can also feel the same pain when they opened the season with a resounding loss at Missouri State (formerly Southwest Missouri State University) by a score of 87-51. The Huskies shot an awful 30% and only made 5 of 21 3-point attempts. Peterson led the team with ten points. Conversely, Missouri State was blistering from the field connecting on a whopping 58% of their shots, including 50% from three-point range.

Head Coach of the Huskies Rob Judson was sure not to have liked what he saw from his team. But he praised Missouri State after the contest. "We have to give credit to Missouri State for playing a very good basketball game tonight," NIU head coach Rob Judson said. "We didn't shoot the ball well tonight and they did.

"During the course of a season there will be occasions where the ball isn't falling," Judson continued. "When that happens, you have to knuckle down and play some defense. Our misses allowed them to create some easy transition buckets."

Coming off that loss, NIU defeated Division III Aurora University 102-69 on Saturday night. While it wasn't a meaningful game, it did allow the Huskies to get some confidence back. Four Huskies finished in double figures including Peterson with 20 points. Rand scored 15 on seven of eight from the field in his first start for Northern. "We took good shots today," Judson observed. "This team can shoot very well when they deliver the basketball on time and on target to each other."

It was a solid defensive effort for Northern as they forced Aurora into 21 turnovers. "We focused all our practice days on the defensive end of the basketball court," Judson said. "When you focus on the defensive end and the opposing field goal percentage is 31.7%, that's what we like to see."

The Huskies will no doubt regroup from the Missouri State loss and be excited to welcome a Big East team into their place. And DePaul and Wainwright must be ready. This will be DePaul's first road trip of the non-conference, the first in a long line of tough games (including Dayton, Wake Forest, Old Dominion, and California). DePaul will have to play with intensity and veracity to pull out a win.

Note: The Most Valuable Player of the DePaul vs. Northern Illinois game receives the Jay Goedert Memorial Award. Todd Peterson was the first recipient of the award last year. The award is named in honor of former DePaul and NIU assistant coach Jay Goedert who passed away in July of 2004 at the age of 44.

NIU Roster

No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. Pos. Hometown (High School)

1 Quintan Lipkins 5-9 160 Fr.-HS G Houston, TX (Sharpstown)

3 Anthony Maestranzi 5-10 165 Sr.-3L G Bartlett, IL (Bartlett)

5 Richard Oruche 6-3 200 Fr.-HS G Bensenville, IL (Fenton)

10 Ryan Paradise 5-11 178 So.-1L G Naperville, IL (Central)

15 Zach Pancratz 6-5 198 So.-1L G Schaumburg, IL (Schaumburg)

22 Cory Sims 6-1 185 Sr.-1L G Livingston, AL (Livingston)

23 Mike McKinney 6-4 200 Jr.-2L G Evanston, IL (Evanston)

24 Ryan Brown 6-5 175 Fr.-HS G Crystal Lake , IL (Crystal Lake South)

32 Todd Peterson 6-8 225 Sr.-3L F Pekin, IL (Pekin)

33 Ben Rand 6-6 190 So.-TR G Rochelle, IL (Rochelle / University of Iowa)

41 James Hughes 6-11 220 Jr.-2L C Silvis, IL (East Moline United)

45 Bryson McKenzie 6-10 230 Jr.-2L C Gary, IN (West Side)

50 Craig Reichel 6-8 235 R-Fr.-HS F Schamburg, IL (Schaumburg)

Head Coach: Rob Judson (Illinois, 1980), Fifth Season

Assistant Coaches: Rick Ray (Grand View College, 1994), Donald Whiteside (Northern Illinois, 1994), Carl Armato (Northern Illinois, 1984)

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