The Northern Illinois Huskies were once again very hot from the field in their last game, and staying in that kind of form would bode well for them as they engage in a rematch with the Northern Kentucky Norse, with whom they played a thrilling overtime game earlier in the season.
NKU is also coming into this game on a high note, as they took the measure of another Mid-American Conference team (Miami of Ohio) in their last outing. This is a well-coached team that probably comes into this game with a defensive edge.
This second go-around between these squads takes place on Thursday night at BB&T Arena in Highland Heights, KY.
TV: ESPN Plus, 7 PM ET. LINE: Check Intertops for the latest line
ABOUT NORTHERN ILLINOIS: In their 91-76 victory over Western Illinois, NIU (6-4 SU, 5-3 ATS) shot a sizzling 60.7% from the field, and got more balance than had been there previously. Eugene German, the team's top scorer, once again led the way with 20 points, and Levi Bradley added 18 points, with 6-9 forward Lacey James contributing 17 points and ten rebounds. This is one of the most efficient offensive teams in the nation, with an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 58.8% that is fifth-best in the country. What's kind of odd about the way they do business on the offensive end is that they shoot 42.4% from beyond the arc (7th in the country), but take just 30.4% of their shots from three-point territory (the national average is 38.7%). Of course, they give a lot back on the defensive end, as they yield 41.6% - just six teams have been less successful than that in stopping the opposition from long range. Almost 44% of their opponents' points are a result of triples (2nd highest percentage in the country). The aforementioned German was not around for the first meeting between these teams; on October 17 he was apprehended on a retail theft charge and was suspended. He also made a plea deal on a charge of assault stemming from an egg-throwing incident. He received a year of court supervision and 30 hours of community service.
ABOUT NORTHERN KENTUCKY: On Sunday, NKU scored a 72-66 victory over Miami of Ohio, in an effort that was propelled by Drew McDonald's 21 points and ten rebounds. But there were some bad metrics associated with the win. The Norse (now 9-3 SU and 4-6 ATS) took only twelve free throws, registered just eleven assists and made seven of their 24 shots from three-point range. They were lucky that Miami misfired from the arc, going just 6-for-25. They have won their last seven games at home, and have a 15-game home winning streak in non-conference games. Tyler Sharpe has been hot from downtown, shooting 48% from the arc over his last eight games. Overall, NKU has made 9.4 triples per game. And 62.6% of their field goals come from an assist (that's 13th in the country). They've also surrendered just 37.8% field goals, which puts them in the top 20 in the nation (17th, to be exact). That includes 29.5% from three-point land, which should provide quite a challenge for Northern Illinois on those occasions when the Huskies attempt three-pointers. McDonald is 28th in the country in the category of Defensive Rebounding Percentage. The biggest weakness is at the free throw line, as they have made just 61.2%.
1. This game is a rematch of the November 9 meeting, an 88-85 Northern Kentucky victory that came in double overtime. Drew McDonald had 28 points and 14 rebounds for NKU and Zaynah Robinson scored all 13 points during the overtime period. One appreciable difference in the game was that the Norse went 14-for-33 from beyond the arc, while the Huskies hit just six of 23. These teams had never met before this season.
2. NIU's Eugene German took 36.1% of the Huskies' shots when he was on the floor last season, and that was the fourth highest percentage in the country. This year, he's taking 32.5% of their shots.
3. Only 15 players in the country have registered a triple-double this season. Northern Kentucky's Drew McDonald is one of them, with 12 points, 14 rebounds and eleven assists against Morehead State on November 27.
PREDICTION: Northern Kentucky 78, Northern Illinois 71 Bet Now
See all the NCAAB basketball Predictions