Nov. 1, 2009
DEKALB, Ill. -
Those taking in the Northern Illinois men's basketball team's exhibition opener Sunday were undoubtedly surprised than it had been more than 20 months since junior guard Xavier Silas last played in an NCAA Division I basketball game. The Colorado transfer wasted no time making his mark in a Huskie uniform, pouring in a game-high 30 points in NIU's 93-59 win over Aurora University at the Convocation Center.
The Huskies led wire-to-wire in the rout, and equaled its largest lead of 34 points in the final minute of play. Junior teammates Sean Kowal and Jeremy Landers joined Silas in double figures, scoring 15 and 12 points, respectively. Kowal also ripped down 11 rebounds to go along with five assists and three blocks in 29 minutes of action.
"We certainly saw some very good things out there today, and some that we will put a point of focus on in practice this week; we have to take a look at the film," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "We were a good offensive team last year, and I don't think it will be an issue for us to score effectively this season. We did some really good things on the offensive end, and Xavier showed how he understands how to score the basketball within our offense.
"I thought we got exposed on some dribble drive situations defensively. We need to continue to take pride in improving our field goal defense. It was good for us to take a look at some substitution patterns and various lineups on the floor."
NIU shot 49.2 percent (30-of-61) from the field, 77.1 percent (27-of-35) from the free throw line and doubled-up the Spartans on the boards, 52-27. Silas spearheaded the improved free throw shooting effort, going 11-for-13 from the charity stripe.
NIU jumped out of the gate with a 6-0 lead less than three minutes into the game, and eventually built as large as a 22-point lead in the first half. After Aurora fought back with a 10-4 run to trim the lead to 16 points (36-20) with 4:20 remaining in the opening stanza, Patton called a quick timeout.
The Huskies answered with a 12-8 run to end the half, and took a 48-28 lead into the locker room at halftime. Silas finished the half with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and Kowal's line read 10 points (5-7 shooting), eight rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
The Huskies extended their lead to 61-33 with 14:38 left in the game after freshman Tony Nixon hit a three-pointer, his first field goal in a Huskie uniform - Nixon started the game, and finished with seven points, nine rebounds and just one turnover in 23 minutes of action. Aurora could draw no closer than 19 points for the remainder of the game.
After shooting nearly 60 percent from the field in the first half, the Huskies were 12-of-30 (.400) shooting from the field in the second stanza. Five NIU players finished with five or more assists, including four helpers by Darion "Jake" Anderson in his 14 minutes. NIU out-scored the Spartans in the paint, 34-20, recorded an 18-5 advantage in second-chance points and chipped in 17 points off fast break opportunities.
NIU's final tune-up of the exhibition season is set for next Friday (Nov. 6) against Marygrove College. Tip-off from the Convocation Center is set for 7 p.m.