Northern Illinois (2-8) at Washington (7-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 22, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alaska Airlines Arena (10,000) -- Seattle, Washington. Television: Pac-12 Network. Home Record: NIU 2-2, Washington 5-3. Away Record: NIU 0-6, Washington 1-0. Neutral Record: NIU 0-0, Washington 1-1. Conference Record: NIU 0-0, Washington 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: Two different packs of Huskies will collide when Northern Illinois invades Alaska Airlines Arena for a non-conference duel with Washington.
NIU dropped to 2-8 on Wednesday when it was downed, 75-48, by the Seattle Redhawks at KeyArena. The loss was the third in a row for the team, which has defeated only one Division I opponent this season. Coach Mark Montgomery had his team playing at a very high level before leaving Illinois, as it challenged DePaul in Rosemont before falling to the Blue Demons by only five points. NIU is having trouble on the offensive end with an average of only 56.7 points per game on 38 percent shooting from the field. Its opposition has produced 64.9 ppg.
Washington comes in on a three-game winning streak that was extended on Thursday with a 75-62 decision over Cal Poly. The hosts have won five of their last six games to build a 7-4 record. Coach Lorenzo Romar has seen his squad lose to Albany (63-62), Colorado State (73-55), and Nevada (76-73) at home, but he has also guided it to notable wins over Seton Hall (84-73 OT), Saint Louis (66-61), and Seattle (87-74). Washington is generating 72.8 ppg on 47.5 percent shooting from the field while allowing opponents to average 69.2 points.
This will be the first meeting in history between these schools on the hardwood.
NIU was dominated inside by Seattle in its most recent appearance, as the Redhawks held a 44-30 edge in the rebounding battle and scored 30 points in the paint to their opponent's total of 12. Antoine Christian scored 11 points in 10 minutes off the bench to lead NIU. None of his teammates managed to join him in double-figures and the starting five went a combined 7-of-25 from the field. Sophomore guard Abdel Nader has averaged a team-best 14 ppg in three games since returning from a season opening suspension. Freshman guard Akeem Springs is second on the team and among Mid-American Conference rookies with 10.1 ppg.
Washington dominated Cal Poly its last time out by holding a 30-17 edge in the rebounding battle and converting 18-of-20 attempts from the free-throw line in the second half. UW shot 51.1 percent from the floor while the Mustangs managed to make a lesser 44 percent of their field goal attempts in the bout. C.J. Wilcox stood out with 21 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Aziz N'Diaye just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine boards. Wilcox has become the team's go-to-guy this season after being the third scoring option behind Tony Wroten and Terrence Ross a year ago. Scott Suggs (14.1 ppg), Abdul Gaddy (13.4 ppg, 3.5 apg), and N'Diaye (11.6 ppg, 9.5 rpg) are all big-time contributors for Romar's squad as well.
NIU was awful in the first game of its trip to Seattle earlier this week. There is no reason to think it will improve against a much more talented, physical, and aggressive Washington team.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Washington 74, Northern Illinois 59
12/22 10:30:58 ET