Jan. 20, 2010
TOLEDO, Ohio - Junior guard Xavier Silas poured in a game-high 19 points, including three-consecutive three-pointers with under eight minutes remaining, and the Northern Illinois men's basketball team (8-8, 4-0 MAC) held host Toledo to just a 33.3 percent shooting effort in the second half, edging the Rockets (3-15, 0-4), 58-54, at John F. Savage Arena Wednesday night.
The victory extended Northern Illinois' winning streak to six games, the first of its kind since the 1995-96 NCAA Tournament season, and upped the Huskies' Mid-American Conference record to an unblemished 4-0 for the first time in school history. NIU also secured its third-consecutive road win for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign. The Huskies enter this weekend's slate of league games as the MAC's only remaining undefeated team, after Buffalo's 89-54 loss at Kent State Wednesday night.
Silas' game-high 19 points came on a 6-for-14 effort from the field, including a 4-of-4 tally from the free throw line. Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson was just 1-for-7 from the field, but finished with 10 points and seven rebounds - he hit two key free throws with just 4.4 seconds remaining to give NIU a decisive two-possession lead. Anderson was 8-for-10 from the charity stripe in the game.
Junior guard Michael Patton came off the bench to score a season-high eight points, including two three-pointers, while sophomore forward Lee Fisher added seven points to go along with four rebounds. Junior center Sean Kowal chipped in nine points on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting effort, and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Toledo was led by Chicago native Malcolm Griffin's 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting - he was joined in double figures by Josh Freelove (11 points), Justin Anyijong (11) and freshman sharpshooter Jake Barnett (10).
"We had to grind this one out, no doubt about it," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton
. "We had some guys come off the bench and do a terrific job for us, particularly when our starters were struggling offensively in the first half.
"You have to give Toledo credit. They are certainly hungry for a victory, and showed that tonight on their home court. I still think we have some growing up to do; our guys need to understand what being 3-0, and now 4-0, means to an opponent. We can expect our opponents' best shot every time out."
The Huskies missed 12-of their first 14 shots, and fell behind by 11 points, 16-5, with 11:05 remaining in the opening half. But NIU clawed back with an 8-2 run, and pulled within five, 18-13, at the 7:32 mark. DiNunno's first field goal, a three, capped off the run heading into the third media timeout of the opening 20 minutes.
The Huskies took their first lead of the game, 20-19, after Kowal finished a conventional three-point play from the left elbow. Toledo's Anyijong answered on the ensuing possession, capitalizing in transition to give the Rockets a 21-20 advantage, a lead they would not relinquish for the remainder of the half, taking a 25-22 lead into the locker room. NIU finished the first half shooting 24 percent (6-25) from the field, but went 8-for-11 from the free throw line to stay in striking distance.
NIU started the second half on an 8-2 run, and took a 30-27 lead with 15:08 remaining following Silas' second field goal of the half. Toledo quickly re-gained the advantage at 33-32 after a jumper by Griffin. Anderson and Kowal answered by drilling four-consecutive free throws, and NIU took a 36-33 at the 12:20 mark.
The see-saw affair continued, as Toledo countered with five straight points, taking a 38-36 lead after Freelove's second-consecutive field goal. But then Silas single-handedly took over. The Colorado transfer hit three-consecutive treys in the span of 2:06, helping the Huskies build a 47-44 lead with 5:50 remaining. Michael Patton added a transition runner from just inside the free throw line with 4:23 remaining, giving NIU a 49-44 lead.
The Huskies' lead was extended to a game-high eight points (54-46) with 2:27 remaining after a driving runner by Fisher. But Barnett drilled two free throws, and Bastfield stole the ensuing inbounds pass. Standing wide-open in the left corner, Anyijong hit an ensuing three, pulling the Rockets within one possession (54-51) with 2:03 left.
After a missed jumper by Silas, Jeremy Landers was whistled for a loose ball foul, sending Griffin to the free throw line. He split the pair, keeping NIU's advantage at 54-52 with just over one minute remaining. Then it was free throw time for the Huskies.
Anderson hit one-of-two attempts from the charity stripe with 1:01 remaining, and then drilled three-straight in the final 28 seconds to ice the win for the Huskies. His 2-for-2 effort with just 4.4 seconds remaining gave NIU the coveted two-possession lead (58-54), and eventual final margin in the game.
Northern Illinois will travel to Mt. Pleasant, Mich., to take on MAC-West preseason favorite Central Michigan Saturday evening. Tip-off from Rose Arena is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CST, following the CMU vs. Ohio women's game, which is slated for 3 p.m.