Northern Illinois Defeats Western Illinois

KENNESAW, Ga. - Freshman guard Mike DiNunno's 19 points led a threesome of Huskies in double-figures, as the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (1-1) picked up its first win of the season with a 65-54 victory over Western Illinois (0-2) in the consolation round of the 100 Club Classic at the KSU Convocation Center Saturday evening.

The win secured a third-place finish in the tournament for the Huskies.

Darion "Jake" Anderson scored 19 points, including 15 in the first-half, and Sean Kowal chipped in 12 points, to join DiNunno in double-digits. Freshman Bryan Hall recorded his first-career start as the Huskies' point guard, and dished out five assists against zero turnovers, scored five points on 2-of-2 shooting, and pulled down six rebounds. Western Illinois was led by David DuBois' 26 points on 12-of-21 shooting. DuBois played all 40 minutes in the game.

The Huskies shot 52.2 percent for the game, and held the Leathernecks to a 36.1 percent shooting mark. NIU held statistical advantages in rebounds (35-33), blocks (7-2) and steals (9-6), and converted nine more free throws (15-of-26) than WIU (6-of-18). The Huskies committed 21 turnovers in the game.

"I was very concerned with Western Illinois' dribble penetration ability heading into tonight's game," said head coach Ricardo Patton. "Their guards do a great job of finding the paint, and they shot 45 percent from the field yesterday against Kennesaw State. We were able to hold them to 36 percent shooting from the field, and 33 percent from three-point range. That was a credit to our team defense, which was much better than it was last night.

"Bryan Hall showed me tonight why he should have been out on the floor last night (against Maine). He did a fabulous job taking care of the basketball and running the offense. He's not flashy, but definitely gets the job done."

The Huskies came out firing, with Anderson providing the early offensive pace. He scored 11 points in the first five and half minutes, helping NIU open up a 19-5 lead. Western Illinois began clawing back, and forced Patton into his first timeout (8:02) clinging to a 23-18 lead. The Huskies stretched their lead back to eight points (26-18) after a conventional three-point play by DiNunno, but the Leathernecks countered with a 9-0 surge, and took a 27-26 lead, after a transition bucket by Ceola Clark.

The Huskies ended the half on a 7-2 spree. For the second-consecutive day, Anderson converted a late field goal near the final horn at the end of the first half. His putback with just over five seconds remaining in the opening frame gave NIU a 35-32 lead heading into the locker room at halftime. Anderson and DuBois each scored a game-high 15 first-half points, and DiNunno chipped in 10.

Northern Illinois never surrendered its second-half advantage. After a layup by WIU's Julian Jones Jr. pulled the Leathernecks within one, 35-34, the Huskies countered with a 13-6 run to take a 48-40 lead. DiNunno converted two free throws with 11:07 remaining to give NIU its first double-digit advantage, 52-42.

The Leathernecks' David Nurse drilled a three-pointer with 5:35 remaining to cut NIU's lead to five points, 54-50. But NIU answered with a 9-0 spree, and took a 63-50 lead with 1:02 remaining following Kowal's sixth field goal. Western Illinois was held to just four points over the final 5:35.

The Huskies will open the 2008-09 home slate Tuesday, when NIU hosts Missouri Valley Conference foe Indiana State beginning at 7 p.m.

Box Score

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