I just can't exactly put my finger on what this win means to the Huskies. Have these young players finally arrived and are we ready to challenge for the top-half of the MAC West? The evidence so far provides a yes after the Huskies took Kent State to overtime and beat Akron yesterday at home. Both Ohio teams are currently in the thick of the race in the (more superior) MAC East Division.
Is this one of Pattons' biggest wins in his career here at Northern Illinois? You could make the case that it is. Last year's team pretty much was doomed from the start and then managed to get hot for one game against the Akron Zips. This year's team has been faced with major adverstiy throughout the season, but has not backed down one bit in these past couple games. It shows a distinct sign of improvement after being backed in to a wall during this mid-season tour of MAC East foes.
G Jake Anderson did what he does best on Sunday, winning his third MAC Player of the Week honor. Jake did it all scoring 24 pts, grabbing 10 boards with 6 assists and 4 steals. When Jake is on, there isn't anybody in the MAC that is going to stop him one-on-one driving to the basket. Most importantly, he went 11 of 15 (73%) from the FT line including some major baskets down the stretch to clinch the victory. Jake is truly the MVP and heart and soul of this young squad. He did a great job playing point for the last few essential parts of the game.
F Tyler Storm looked extremely confident and put two tri-liners on the board early to start off the game strong. He finished with 13 points and 2 boards while only playing 19 minutes splitting time with Sean Smith, who also scored 13.
C Sean "Super K" Kowal had a strong outing, scoring 13 points and grabbing 6 bords. He never let down his intensity and was impressive the whole game, highlighted by an alley-oop dunk from Anderson. Baker was cracking me up all game calling him "Super K". Don't even know.
PG Bryan Hall's 1 of 4 free throw shooting.
G Mike Dinunno's 8 turnovers (why they shifted Jake to PG late in the game).
G Michael Patton was extremely rusty coming off an ankle injury (8 mins, 2 turnovers)
Forwards Michael Fakuade & Lee Fisher when they're not playing defense or crashing the boards (3 blocks, 6 rebounds & 2 pts in 32 mins combined)
We attempted 47 free throws and 48 field goals. This is an extremely good percentage and our guys did a great job getting to the line in this game. The FT% was better than our season average, but 66% (31-47) is still below the NCAA average of 68.7%. A couple more FTs made here and there and this is a game that would not have come down to the wire.
This team has talent, there's no doubt about that. To say that this team has turned the corner would be a statement made a little bit to early. We now get to see teams a second time around in the MAC West, which starts out Wednesday at Central Michigan. To me, that is absolutely the most pivotal game of the season for NIU. If we suck it up and get a hard-fought W against the Chippewas, then the rest of the MAC West slate encompasses winnable games for Coach Patton and the Huskies.