NIU basketball faces tough schedule

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

Northern Illinois University (NIU) and Northwestern University opened the 2010-11 basketball season at the Convocation Center in DeKalb, Ill., last Friday (Nov. 12), marking the first time the Wildcats have traveled to NIU since the 1981-82 season. The Huskies dropped the opener 97-78.

NIU continues their non-conference schedule with two more games this week. They played Bradley in Peoria Tuesday, Nov. 16—results unavailable at press time—and their second home game of the year will be this Sunday, Nov. 21, at 3 p.m. against Cardinal Stritch.

Other home opponents during the non-conference season include Boise State (Nov. 29), Illinois-Chicago (Dec. 14) and a New Year’s Eve outing versus Utah Valley. Return road games from the 2009-10 campaign include trips to Bradley (Nov. 16), Maryland Eastern Shore (Nov. 24) and Temple. The Huskies will also resume their respective in-state rivalries with DePaul (Dec. 2) and Southern Illinois (Dec. 22) on the road, and make a trip to Ames, Iowa, to take on Iowa State Jan. 3, 2011.

“Our non-conference schedule is certainly challenging, and it will be exciting to play a lot of those games,” said Head Coach Ricardo Patton. “If you look at our league, no one is playing a tougher non-conference schedule than we are. It also has some local flavor when you talk about opening the season with Northwestern at home, and playing DePaul. I think it’s the type of schedule that our fans want us to play, and more importantly, one that is going to prepare us for conference play.”

The Huskies will open MAC play at home versus Ball State Saturday, Jan. 8, the first of five-consecutive games versus division foes. MAC-East crossover play begins Wednesday, Jan. 26, when NIU hosts Akron, which advanced to the MAC Championship game last season. The Huskies will also host Bowling Green (Feb. 2) and Kent State (Feb. 12) in MAC-East crossover action.

Northern Illinois will travel to Buffalo (Jan. 29), Ohio (Feb. 5) and Miami (Ohio) (Feb. 9) in crossover road games, before hosting Western Michigan (Feb. 15), Central Michigan (Feb. 23) and Eastern Michigan (March 2) down the stretch of the regular season. The Huskies will also face an undetermined non-conference foe for the ESPNU BracketBusters game at the Convocation Center Saturday, Feb. 19. It will mark NIU’s first home game in the BracketBusters series since the 2006-07 campaign.

“We start out (in MAC play) with quite a few games on the road, but have a good stretch of home games near the end,” Patton said. “Like anything else, it’s not about how you start, but how you finish the season. In February and March, you really need to be playing your best basketball.”

Tickets for all NIU home games are available by calling the NIU ticket office at (815) 752-6800.

From the Nov. 17-23, 2010 issue

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