Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Miami battles road warrior NIU in key MAC game


RedHawks will be without star forward Horace

By Mark Schmetzer
Enquirer contributor

Northern Illinois University opened a brand-new basketball arena this season, but the Huskies are happier when they're on the road.

So far, NIU's new Convocation Center has been more like the proverbial doghouse for its residents. The Huskies are only 6-6 at home; 3-4 against Mid-American Conference teams. However, they've gone 8-4 on the road; 7-0 in the MAC.

The Huskies (14-10, 10-4 MAC), will try to extend that streak tonight when they play Miami (12-11,10-4 MAC) in a crucial league game at Millett Hall at 7 p.m.

Miami will be without 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Danny Horace, who will serve the first game of a two-game suspension he received after an altercation with Buffalo's B.J. Walker during Miami's win Saturday.

Gene Seals, the 6-6 junior who scored 12 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes in Miami's 78-70 win at NIU last season, will start in Horace's place.

The teams are tied for third place overall in the conference, and Miami is a half-game behind Kent State, which plays at Marshall tonight, in the MAC East Division. The Huskies trail first-place Central Michigan by a full game in the West Division.

The two division champions and the team with the next best record earn first-round byes in the MAC tournament.

Miami assistant coach James Whitford, who scouted NIU, credits the team's discipline for its success away from home.

"They are a very good team," Whitford said. "They're a team without any superstars, but they all identify in their roles.

"The other thing you need to win on the road is defense. Your shooting can come and go, but you always have defense."

That's one reason Miami won its last two road games. Saturday's 63-35 win at Buffalo made this year's team the first since the 1946-47 squad to hold at least three opponents to fewer than 40 points.

The Huskies are led by 6-foot-6 junior forward Marcus Smallwood, who leads the conference in offensive rebounding and is third in overall rebounding. The Huskies lead the MAC with a plus-8.9 rebounding margin in conference play.

Smallwood, whose 13.7 points per game average is second to junior guard P.J. Smith's 13.9, has produced 11 double-doubles this season.

"Marcus throws his heart over the rim and then goes up and gets it," NIU coach Rob Judson said. "He's just a warrior out there on the floor for us."

Northern Illinois at Miami

Tipoff: 7 p.m. today, Millett Hall (9,200), Oxford.

Records: Northern Illinois (14-10, 10-4 Mid-American Conference), Miami (12-11, 10-4 MAC).

Radio: WCKY-AM (1360), WMOH-AM (1450), WFMG-FM (101.3)

TV: None

Series: Miami leads 17-11.

Line: Miami by 4 .

NORTHERN ILLINOIS

PlayerYr.Ht.PPG
P.J. SmithJr.6-413.9
M.SmallwoodJr.6-413.9
Eugene BatesSr.6-010.0
Mike MorrisonSr.6-95.3
Jamel StatenSo. 6-65.1
Coach: Rob Judson (26-26 2nd year; same overall)

MIAMI

PlayerYr.Ht.PPG
Juby JohnsonJr. 6-515.1
Chet MasonJr. 6-310.9
Josh HausfeldFr. 6-36.8
Gene SealsJr.6-65.3
Bryan ReedSr.6-62.9
Coach: Charlie Coles (119-89, seventh season; 211-173 overall)




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