Scouting report: Northern Illinois
Game info: 4 p.m. Saturday at Edmundson Pavilion (10,000 capacity)
TV: Pac-12 Networks (Kevin Calabro and Detlef Schrempf)
Radio: KKNW 1150 AM and 102.9 FM (Steve Sandmeyer and Jason Hamilton).
Coach: Mark Montgomery is 7-34 in his second season with the Huskies. He spent the previous 10 years as an assistant at Michigan State.
Prediction: Picked to finish fifth in the Mid-American Conference West division by media who cover the league.
Series: This is the first meeting between the teams. NIU is 0-3 against the Pac-12 and Washington is 5-1 all time against the MAC.
Previous game: Lost 75-48 at Seattle University on Wednesday.
PLAYER TO WATCH:
- — Preseason all-conference selection Abdel Nader (above, right) violated a team policy and was suspended from the first seven games. He made his season debut Dec. 7 and is averaging 14.0 points in the past three games. The 6-7, 225-pound sophomore is NIU’s best player. He scored 17 points in his season debut and had 20 in the next game. Against Seattle U, Nader finished with five on 2-for-9 shooting.
He’s not a particular good perimeter shooter. His career three-point percentage is 29.5 percent. This season, he’s connected on 4 of 15 three-pointers. He’s a decent rebounder who averages 4.0 boards and he’s not much of a playmaker. He averages 1.7 assists. However, his 1.7 steals average is impressive.
Nader’s career high is 26 points. He appeared in all 31 games last season and started 29 as a freshman, scoring at least 12 points in the final eight games. He earned a spot on the MAC’s all-Freshman team. He was was one of five players named to the West Division Preseason All-MAC Team.
— Since making the NCAA tournament in 1996, Northern Illinois has posted just two winning seasons in the past 16 years. During that time, the Huskies have had five coaches. Montgomery is the latest and things got off to a rocky start last season when NIU posted a 5-26 record. The team was mired in discipline problems, rotating lineups and bad shooting.
— This season promised better results because the Huskies returned three starters and their top five scorers. However, Nader’s suspension was a harbinger of an awful start. NIU has beaten just one Division I opponent (a 65-54 win over SIU Edwardsville). They’ve lost four games by double-digit margins, including a 27-defeat at Seattle University.
— Here’s video highlights of NIU’s 69-64 defeat at DePaul, which is arguably its best game this season.
— Freshmen have played 62.7 percent of the minutes this season for NIU; sophomores have added another 20.3 percent of the minutes. Ten of the 15 players making on the roster are underclassmen. Northern Illinois is currently the third-least experienced team in the country, according to StatSheet.com.
— The Huskies average just 56.7 points, which ranks 335th among the 345 Division I teams. Their 9.2 assists per game ranks 337th.
— NIU’s RPI is 327th.
— The Huskies have won just one road game in the past two seasons.
— Freshman backup guard Akeem Springs is second on the team with a 10.1 scoring average. His career high is 21.
F- Sam Mader, 6-9, 220, Fr., 6.9 ppg., 3.0 rpg., 47.5 FG%
F- Keith Gray, 6-8, 225, So., 3.5, 2.6, 35.9 FG%
G – Abdel Nader, 6-7, 225, So., 14.0, 4.0, 39.5 FG%
G – Aksel Bolin, 6-7, 220, Jr., 7.3, 4.9, 1.9 apg.
G – Travon Baker, 5-10, 155, Fr., 5.8, 2.2, 2.3 spg.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
— Northern Illinois doesn’t t have the experience or skill to put up much of a fight on the road against quality teams right now. The Huskies’ problems begin in the backcourt with Baker who has 31 turnovers and just 16 assists. He appears to be disruptive on the defensive end and ranks second in the conference in steals. But he’s somewhat of a liability on the offensive end. He’s 0 for 9 on three-pointers and he does a lot of his scoring at the free throw line where he shoots 69.2 percent. This is the game when 6-3 Abdul Gaddy should work on his post-up skills. The same is true for 7-foot center Aziz N’Diaye who goes against freshman Mader.