Huskies Win Third-Straight, 62-48 at Ball State in MAC Opener
Jan. 9, 2010
MUNCIE, Ind. - Junior guard Xavier Silas poured in a game-high 25 points with a single-game school record 15-for-15 effort from the free throw line, lifting the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (5-8, 1-0 MAC) to a defensive-minded 62-48 win over host Ball State (6-7, 0-1) in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams at Worthen Arena Saturday afternoon.
The win was NIU's third-straight, fourth-of-five overall and the second-consecutive on the road. The last time Northern Illinois posted back-to-back road victories was at the tail end of the 2005-06 season (March 1 and March 4, 2006).
"I thought it was a very good basketball game today," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "After falling behind by two at the half, I thought our guys came out in the second half and really turned it up defensively. We also started to knock down shots in the second half. We got good shots in the first half as well, they just didn't fall."
"Getting a road win early in the conference season is huge for our team, but also huge for our program," added Patton. "Road wins have been tough to come by for us the past couple of years, as they are in every league. It also speaks to the difficulty of the non-conference schedule we played. Our guys have played in some very hostile environments, and that prepares you for conference play. We didn't get rattled today."
For the second time in the past three games, Northern Illinois held its opponent to a 30 percent or less effort from the field - Ball State finished the game 16-of-59 (.271) from the field. The Huskies committed just 12 turnovers, a season-low mark on the road, and set a season-best mark with a 75 percent (16-24) effort from the free throw line.
Joining Silas in double figures was sophomore forward Michael Fakuade, who scored 10 points (4-8 shooting), but fouled out in just 11 minutes of action. Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson posted his fifth double-digit rebounding output of the season, corralling a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with five points, two assists and two steals.
Sophomore forward Lee Fisher ripped down eight rebounds, scored four points, dished out three assists and had two steals. Junior center Sean Kowal had his second-consecutive solid effort off the bench, scoring eight points on 4-of-7 shooting. Silas also tore down nine rebounds, a career-high tying effort.
Ball State was led by Malik Perry's 14 points and team-best seven rebounds. Sophomore center Jarrod Jones, who came into the game averaging 14.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest, was held to just seven points and two rebounds in 20 minutes.
Fakuade single-handedly paced NIU's offense in the early going, scoring the Huskies' first eight points, including two three-point field goals. Ball State held the 9-8 lead at the first media timeout (15:11), and the Huskies captured a two-point advantage (12-10) just four minutes later. Fakuade picked up his second personal foul with 13:19 remaining, and was sent to the bench for the remainder of the half.
The Huskies claimed their largest lead of the opening half, 22-18, after Silas converted his first three-pointer (2:10). Ball State called timeout, and out of the break, Brawley Chisholm and Terrance Watson hooked up for an alley-oop, trimming the NIU lead back to just two, 22-20. The Cardinals finished the half on a 6-2 run, including three-consecutive free throws by Chisholm with just 2.6 seconds remaining, to take a 26-24 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
NIU was the aggressor early in the second half, going on a convincing 9-0 run with four different players (Silas, Anderson, Fisher and Fakuade) providing field goals and pushing NIU's lead to 33-26. Perry converted back-to-back field goals to pull the Cardinals within 33-30 with 12:48 remaining, but NIU answered with a 10-0 run to claim a 13-point advantage, 43-30.
NIU maintained at least a 12-point lead for the ensuing 2:03, before Silas' cut to the goal, catch and finish gave the Huskies a 49-34 lead with 7:39 left. Ball State attempted to slow the game down by fouling the Huskies on nearly every possession down the stretch, but could draw no closer than nine points. NIU went to the free throw line 15 times in the final 5:35, converting 13 of those attempts. Silas was 10-for-10 from the charity stripe in the stretch.
"I was focused on being more aggressive in the second half," Silas said. "But also, what helped me was Jake Anderson grabbing 10 boards, Lee Fisher getting his eight rebounds and Mike DiNunno having five assists with no turnovers. It wasn't just me today; it was my teammates picking me up."
Overall in the second half, the Huskies out-scored the Cardinals 38-22, recorded a 24-18 advantage on the boards and limited Ball State to just a 19.4 percent (6-31) effort from the floor. The Cardinals converted just two field goals in the first 16:13 of the second stanza.
Northern Illinois will begin its two-game MAC home stand Wednesday (Jan. 13), when divisional foe Western Michigan visits the Convocation Center beginning at 7 p.m.
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