NIU Opens MAC Play Saturday Against Ball State



Jan. 7, 2011

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NIU (4-8, 0-0) vs. Ball State (8-4, 0-0)
Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011 | 3 p.m.
DeKalb, Ill. | NIU Convocation Center | 9,100

NIU Radio Availability
WLBK  | 1360 AM | DeKalb
WSCR | 670 AM | Chicago
WJOL  | 1340 AM | Joliet

The Match-Up
Northern Illinois begins Mid-American Conference play on Saturday, Jan. 8, as it hosts Ball State at the NIU Convocation Center at 3 p.m. The Huskies enter conference play with a 4-8 overall record, having dropped a 72-63 decision at Iowa State last time out. Xavier Silas led NIU with 18 points against the Cyclones, he enters MAC play averaging 24.0 points per game, fifth-best in the nation and tops in the conference. Aksel Bolin tied a career-high with 10 points against Iowa State while Tim Toler set a new career-best with 10 rebounds versus the Cyclones.

About Ball State
The Cardinals begin conference play with an 8-4 record; they have won their last two contests against North Carolina A&T and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. Jarrod Jones is the leading scorer for Ball State, averaging 16.2 points per contest, Jones also pulls down 9.0 rebounds per game to lead the Cardinals. Randy Davis is currently second in the MAC in assists averaging 5.9 per game. Ball State is 2-3 on the road this season, including a 79-77 victory at DePaul, the lone common opponent between the Huskies and Cardinals.

Against the Cardinals
Northern Illinois and Ball State have met on 74 occasions prior to Saturday's meeting with the Cardinals holding a 42-32 all-time series edge. NIU holds a 22-14 advantage in games played in DeKalb. Last season, the Huskies and Cardinals split a pair of meetings with each team winning on the road. Ball State won nine of the first 10 meetings between the two schools when NIU rejoined the MAC in 1997-98, but NIU holds a 9-7 mark in the last 16, beginning on Feb. 27, 2002.

A New Season
NIU begins Mid-American Conference play Saturday against Ball State. Since rejoining the MAC, NIU is 5-8 in conference openers and has won its last two, against Toledo in 2008-09 and Ball State in 2009-10. Last season was the only time the Huskies have faced the Cardinals in a conference opener since rejoining the MAC.

Attacking the Glass
Last time out against Iowa State (Jan. 3), NIU out-rebounded the Cyclones by 10, 51-41. The 51 boards were the most for the Huskies this season and the first time they had 50-or-more since Feb. 27, 2010, at Eastern Michigan. NIU also grabbed a season-best 19 offensive boards against Iowa State; Northern Illinois ranks third in the Mid-American Conference in offensive rebounding, averaging 13.25 per game.  

Career Days Cap 2010
Jeremy Landers and Bryan Hall each scored career highs in NIU's 86-76 New Year's Eve victory over Utah Valley. Landers scored 17 points, bettering his previous best of 14 set earlier this season at DePaul (Dec. 2) and Hall had 13 points to top his previous best of 10 against Boise State (Nov. 29) this season. Landers and Hall were two of the four Huskies to reach double figures in the win, Xavier Silas (26) and Tony Nixon (10), were the other two. It was the first time this season four NIU players have reached double figures in a game. The last time it happened was Feb. 6, 2010, at Miami (Ohio).

A Tough Road
NIU's last four opponents on the road, Temple, Southern Illinois, Missouri and Iowa State, have a combined home record of 30-3.

Landers Coming on Offensively
Jeremy Landers has seen an explosion in his offensive production over the last seven games. Through the first five games of the season, Landers was averaging 2.6 points per contest. In the six games beginning at DePaul on Dec. 2, Landers is averaging 9.9 points per game, increasing his season scoring average to 6.8 points per game. Landers has scored in double figures four times in the last seven games, remarkable considering he had just four double-digit scoring games in his first 83 career games played. 

Charity Stripe Turnaround
A year ago, Northern Illinois shot just 64.6 percent from the free throw line as eight of NIU's 12 players with more than two attempts on the season hit less than 60 percent from the line. The Huskies ranked 290th in the country and 11th in the MAC in free throw percentage, despite Xavier Silas' 81.1 percent mark.  So far in 2010-11, the Huskies have turned that performance around, ranking first in the MAC, and 36th nationally, shooting 73.7 percent as a team (205-of-278). Silas' 90.1 percent leads the MAC and is 13th in the nation.    

Silas Smashes Records vs. UIC
Xavier Silas scored 40 points to lead NIU to an 80-78 victory over Illinois-Chicago on Dec. 14. Silas' 40 points set a new NIU Convocation Center scoring record, the record was previously 35 by Buffalo's Andy Robinson on Feb. 5, 2008. NIU's previous best at the Convocation Center was 32 by Darion Anderson against Chicago State on Dec. 6, 2008.

Silas also scored 28 points in the second half of the contest, tying the NIU single-half record set by Larry Wyllie in the second half at Eastern Michigan on Feb. 15, 1958.

He also tied the NIU school records for free throws made (22) and attempted (24) in a game. Both of those marks were set by Willie Hanson against Central Michigan on Feb. 26, 1966.

Finally, Silas' 22 free throws made also ties the Mid-American Conference record held by three other players: Jim Ray, Toledo (Feb. 27, 1956), Rick Rightnowar, Toledo (Feb. 1, 1992) and Ron Lewis, Bowling Green (March 10, 2003).

The 40-Point Club
With his 40 points against UIC, Xavier Silas became one of just 11 players in the nation to score 40 points in a game this season. Mike James of Lamar has the highest scoring game this year, 52 points against Division III Louisiana College. The second- and third-highest scoring games of the year came in a four overtime game between Ohio and St. Bonaventure. Of the 40-point games in the nation just seven, including Silas', came in a non-overtime game against a Division I opponent.

Silas Starts Strong
After finishing the 2009-10 campaign as the MAC's No. 2 scorer with 19.7 points per game, Northern Illinois senior Xavier Silas is scoring at an even faster pace this season. The Texas native is averaging 24.0 points per game, fifth in the nation and tops in the Mid-American Conference. Silas scored a career-high 40 points against Illinois-Chicago, recording NIU's first 40-plus point game since Paul Dawkins netted 47 at Western Michigan on Feb. 28, 1979.  In his Huskie career, Silas has scored in double figures 32 times in 37 games played.  He scored 493 points in 2009-10 despite missing five games due to a hand injury suffered in the season opener and has 288 points already this season.

On Target
Silas' scoring increase has not come with more shots, but through hitting a higher percentage of his shots.  So far in the early-going, Silas has made 47.0 percent of his field goals overall, while his three-point shooting is not far off that at a 41.1 percent clip.  Those percentages are far ahead of his 38.3 and 32.1 percent marks for field goals and three-pointers made, respectively, a year ago.   The Huskie records for single season percentages are 58.9 (overall) and 48.9 (threes).

MAC Honors
Xavier Silas has gathered three Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week honors already this season. Silas scored 56 points in the Huskies' games against Bradley and Cardinal Stritch Nov. 16 and 21 to earn the initial award.  Silas scored a career-high 34 points in just 24 minutes of action versus Cardinal Stritch as he made 11-of-17 field goals overall and six-of-nine shots from three-point range. The Austin, Texas native scored 22 points in just 25 minutes in the Huskies' 66-63 loss at Bradley while hitting seven of his 11 field goal attempts and all six of his free throws.  He added six rebounds in that game and totaled 10 for the week.  In the two games, Silas shot 64.3 percent from the field (18-of-28) and 57.1 percent from three-point range (57.1 percent). 

In NIU's lone game during the week of Nov. 22-28, Silas tied his career-high for the second straight game to garner the honor again in an 86-80 win at Maryland Eastern Shore Nov. 24.  While scoring 34 points, he added a season-high three assists and tied a season-best with six rebounds.  Silas' points came on 12-of-16 shooting as he established a new career high for field goals made in a game and went 4-for-5 on three-pointers.

Silas garnered his third honor of the season on Dec. 20, after averaging 33.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists against Illinois-Chicago and Temple. He scored 40 points to lead the Huskies to a victory over the Flames and added a game-high 27 points against the Owls. Silas also grabbed six rebounds in each contest and tied a career-high with five assists at Temple.

Hall Lends a Hand
Junior Bryan Hall has cemented his spot as the Huskies' starting point guard with steady ball-handling. Hall is averaging 2.67 assists per game, 12th-best in the Mid-American Conference. After finishing the 2009-10 season with 33 turnovers and 40 assists, Hall leads NIU with 32 assists already this season.  He had five assists without a turnover versus Cardinal Stritch and recorded a career-high seven assists versus just one turnover at Maryland Eastern Shore. 

Silas a Senior CLASS Candidate
Xavier Silas has been named one of 30 candidates for the 2011 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award for men's basketball.  The award honors seniors playing Division I basketball who have demonstrated high achievement in the areas of community, classroom, character and competition throughout their collegiate careers.

Quarterback Grady Joins Roster
Redshirt junior DeMarcus Grady, a quarterback on the NIU football team, joined the Huskie basketball roster on Monday, Dec.20, after returning from the Humanitarian Bowl. Grady, who started the football season opener at Iowa State, has not played basketball since high school when he was an all-state honorable mention player as a senior. Grady helped the NIU football team win a school-record 11 games this season.
Newest Huskies
Northern Illinois signed a pair of players for 2011-12 on Nov. 10. Zach Miller, a 5-9 guard from Glenbard East High School in Chicago, and DeAndre Barnette, a 6-4 wing from Liberty Tech in Jackson, Tenn., inked with the Huskies following successful junior seasons at their respective schools and equally as impressive summers. Miller helped lead the Rams to the Class 4A sectional final as a junior as he averaged 14.1 points, 3.1 steals and 7.2 assists per game.  He was the DuPage Valley Conference Player of the Year.  Barnette led Liberty Tech to the Tennessee Class 2A title game and was named to the all-tournament team at the state tourney.

Streak Stopped
Xavier Silas started the season a perfect 28-of-28 from the free throw line before recording his first miss at Maryland Eastern Shore.  Silas made 42 straight free throws dating back to last year's penultimate game versus Toledo (March 4, 2010) before missing three of his last five free throws versus UMES.  Silas' made his last nine free throws versus Toledo last year, beginning with 31 seconds left in the first half.  He then hit all five of his tries in the MAC Tournament first-round game at Eastern Michigan. This year, he went 12-of-12 from the line versus Northwestern and hit all six of his tries at Bradley and versus Stritch, then made his first four free throws in Maryland.  Since missing his last attempt, Silas went 4-for-4 against Boise State.  The Northern Illinois record for consecutive free throws made in a season is 33 (by Todd Peterson in 2005-06); there is no record for consecutive free throws made in a career.   

Challenging Slate
Northern Illinois will face six opponents that played in the 2010 postseason with games against NCAA Tournament participants Temple (Dec. 18), Missouri (Dec. 27) and Ohio (Feb. 5) along with National Invitation Tournament (NIT) teams Kent State (Feb. 12) and Northwestern. Akron earned a trip to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) last year.

Looking Ahead
NIU will open the road portion of its Mid-American Conference schedule on Tuesday, Jan. 11, when it travels to Ypsilanti, Mich., for a meeting with Eastern Michigan. Tipoff against the Eagles is set for 6 p.m. (CT).



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