Jan. 16, 2010
DEKALB - Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson scored 22 points to join the 1,000-point club, and Xavier Silas poured in a game-high 25 points to lead the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (7-8, 3-0 MAC) to a 77-69 win over visiting Eastern Michigan (9-7, 1-2 MAC) at the Convocation Center Saturday afternoon. The Huskies' winning streak has now reached five games, and NIU is now in sole possession of first-place in the MAC-West through the league's first three games.
Anderson became the 28th player in NIU basketball history to score 1,000 or more career points, and just the 15th player to accomplish the feat during his third season. Silas' 25-point output marked his fifth effort with at least 20 points this season. Sophomore guard Mike DiNunno recorded another solid effort running the offense at the point guard position, dishing out seven assists to go along with nine points and four steals.
Eastern Michigan was led by senior point guard Carlos Medlock, who scored 28 points on 7-of-16 shooting, including a 14-for-14 effort from the free throw line. Brandon Bowdry (13 points) and Quintin Daily (10) joined Medlock in double figures.
The Huskies' 3-0 start in Mid-American Conference play matches their best start to a MAC season in NIU's two stints as a league member. NIU's five-game winning streak also marks the first of its kind since the 2002-03 campaign.
"First of all, congratulations to Jake Anderson for being in the 1,000-point club, that is no easy task, especially in just three years of playing college basketball," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "It was a good win by our team today, one we had to grind out. I was happy with how we came out in the second half. In the first half I thought we were sleepwalking. The tough ones are where you have to grind it out."
"Due to the fouls, we had to sit some guys. Ante Dzepina did a nice job of coming in and playing big in the post. That's how you win those types of ball games. You can't just rely on your starters. This was one of those games. There are valuable lessons we can take as both players and coaches."
Eastern Michigan missed four-of its first five shots, and allowed NIU to race out to a quick 8-4 lead behind two early threes by Silas. But the Eagles answered with five-straight points, and eventually extended their lead to 14-10 after a conventional three-point play by Bowdry. NIU's Sean Kowal picked up his second foul at the 13:49 mark, and was sent to the bench, joining Michael Fakuade, who also picked up two early personal fouls.
Northern Illinois re-gained the lead, 20-18, after a three-pointer by sophomore Tyler Storm. But EMU countered with five-straight points, and took a 23-20 lead at the third media timeout of the first half (6:59). After EMU went up by five (25-20), the Huskies went on an 8-2 run, and claimed a 28-27 lead with 3:58 left in the first half.
The Huskies built a 36-31 lead with under one minute remaining in the first half, but EMU's Antonio Green drilled a three-pointer with 21 seconds left to pull the Eagles within two, 36-34, heading into the locker room at halftime. Silas led the way with 17 first half points and the Huskies out-shot the Eagles, 41.9 percent to 35.7 percent. NIU also held a decisive advantage on the boards in the opening 20 minutes, 24-17. Medlock chipped in 11 first half points for Eastern Michigan.
The Huskies opened the second half on a 10-5 run, and claimed a 46-39 lead at the first media timeout of the second frame (15:58). The lead was extended to double-digits (50-39) with 15:40 remaining, after a steal, and ensuing lay-up by Anderson, two of his eight points in the first eight minutes of the second half.
NIU pushed its lead to 15 points (59-44) with 10:19 remaining after Silas drilled back-to-back free throws. The Huskies held onto their double-digit advantage for the ensuing six-plus minutes, before Medlock's layup cut NIU's advantage to nine, 69-60, with 4:00 remaining. But Anderson answered with a drive and finish on the ensuing possession, pushing NIU's lead to 71-60.
NIU hit all six of its free throw attempts in the final 4:00 to help secure the eight-point win. The Huskies owned scoring advantages in the paint (32-26), on the fast break (15-4) and from their bench (16-11). NIU shot 45.3 percent for the game, and limited the Eagles to just a 35.1 percent shooting effort. The Eagles posted a strong rebounding effort in the second half, and evened the total on the boards, 37-37. NIU's 82.8 percent (24-29) effort from the free throw line marked a season-best effort.
Northern Illinois will look to record its best-ever start to a Mid-American Conference season next Wednesday, when the Huskies travel to Toledo, Ohio to take on the Rockets beginning at 6 p.m. The Rockets (3-13, 0-2 MAC) are scheduled to play at Ball State on Sunday.