Huskies Open MAC Play at Ball State Saturday Afternoon

GO HUSKIES Xavier Silas
GO HUSKIES
Xavier Silas
GO HUSKIES

Jan. 8, 2010

NORTHERN ILLINOIS (4-8, 0-0 MAC) AT BALL STATE (6-6, 0-0 MAC) » January 9, 2010 » John E. Worthen Arena » Muncie, Ind. » 1 p.m.

Match-Up At-a-Glance
Arena: Worthen Arena (11,500)
Tip-off: 1 p.m. Central Standard Time
Radio: Northern Illinois ISP Sports Network (Flagship WLBK, 1360, DeKalb)
Television: Ball State Sports Network (Rockford's mynetworkTV, Comcast cable channel 16)
Live Stats: NIUHuskies.com/BallStateSports.com (Live Stats)
Social Media Coverage: Twitter.com/NIUAthletics; Twitter.com/MACMBBall
Series Record/Streak: Ball State leads, 41-31/W1

Game Notes as Downloadable PDF Get Acrobat Reader

DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois (4-8), winners of three-of its last four non-conference games, will look to start out the league slate with a victory for the second-consecutive season, when the Huskies travel to Muncie, Ind., and Worthen Arena to take on host Ball State (6-6) Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. Through the Ball State Sports Network, the game will be aired on Rockford's mynetworkTV, Comcast Cable channel 16.

NIU is coming off Wednesday's 99-93 win over host Chicago State, marking the Huskies' first road victory of the season. Junior guard Xavier Silas and sophomore backcourt mate Mike DiNunno combined for 44 points, and the Huskies held off a late rally by the Cougars, after building as large as a 28-point advantage.

Silas scored a game-high 24 points, leading the Huskies in scoring for the fourth-consecutive game. DiNunno scored a season-high 20 points, including four three-pointers, and had four assists against just one turnover, while junior Darion "Jake" Anderson chipped in 14 points (5-6 shooting) to go along with six rebounds and a career-high tying seven assists.

NEXT UP ...
Northern Illinois will return home on Wednesday, Jan. 13, to host MAC-West foe Western Michigan at the Convocation Center beginning at 7 p.m. The Huskies and Broncos split the regular-season series last year, with both teams recording double-digit wins on their respective home floors. WMU enters Saturday's game against Eastern Michigan with an 8-5 record, and has won four-straight non-conference games. David Kool, a preseason All-MAC West pick, is leading the league in scoring at 19.8 points per game.

GAME DATA
Northern Illinois will be playing its Mid-American Conference road opener in Muncie, Ind., for the second consecutive season ... The Cardinals lead the all-time series versus the Huskies 41-31, and have won two-straight over NIU at John E. Worthen Arena ... NIU and Ball State have split the last 10 meetings (5-5) in the all-time series ... Since the 1992 opening of Worthen Arena, NIU has posted a 4-8 record versus Ball State at the facility ... The last four contests between Northern Illinois and Ball State have been decided by six points or less, including three games by two points or fewer ... Dating back to the 2006-07 season, NIU is 2-20 in MAC road games ... Last season, Darion "Jake" Anderson averaged 17.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game in the two games against Ball State ... Anderson, who is scheduled to play his 70th career game Saturday, is approaching several milestones -- along with chasing 1,000 points (961), Anderson is also nearing 200 career assists (186) and 400 rebounds (386) ... Senior forward Najul Ervin enters the Ball State game with 193 points, and is seven tallies away from becoming the third active NIU player to boast at least 200 career points and 200 rebounds -- he would join Anderson and Sean Kowal in that department ... Kowal enters Saturday's game with 386 points in his one-plus year career at NIU; he is 14 points away from securing his 400th career tally.

WITH A WIN, NIU WOULD ...
» Pick up back-to-back road wins for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign (March 1 and March 4, 2006)
» Start out 1-0 in Mid-American Conference play for the second-straight season
» Record its first winning streak (three or more games) of the season, and improve to 3-0 in the month of January

WITH A LOSS, NIU WOULD ...
» Drop its 10th-consecutive MAC road game, dating back to the 2007-08 campaign
» Fall to Ball State in Muncie, Ind., for the third-consecutive season
» Start out 0-1 in MAC play for just the second time in the past six seasons

SCOUTING THE HUSKIES
Northern Illinois enters Saturday's game with a 4-8 overall record. The Huskies have faced six teams that appeared in the postseason following the 2008-09 season, including three that advanced to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies are 1-5 on the road after defeating host Chicago State (99-93) on Wednesday night.

Through 12 games, the Huskies are being led offensively by junior guard Xavier Silas, who is averaging a team-high 18.3 points per game in seven starts this season. Junior backcourt mate Darion "Jake" Anderson has provided 10.7 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds per contest while shooting nearly 43 percent (.427) from the field, and almost 71 percent (.708) from the free throw line. Junior center Sean Kowal has added 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game on a 50.5 percent effort from the field.

NIU is averaging 64.0 points per game, and allowing its opponents to score 69.5 points per contest. The Huskies are shooting 40.3 percent from the field, 27.1 percent from three-point range and 58.8 percent from the free throw line. NIU is out-rebounding its opponents by more than two caroms (+2.4) per game, and is averaging 17.3 turnovers per contest.

On the road, the Huskies are averaging 59.5 points per game, and are edging their opponents on the boards, 37.8-37.3. In four road games this season, Silas is averaging a team-high 14.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per outing.

SCOUTING THE CARDINALS
Ball State, the defending MAC-West champion, is 6-6 this season, with a 5-2 mark at home. Jarrod Jones is averaging a team-high 14.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, while Jauwan Scaife (9.9 ppg) and Malik Perry (9.4 ppg) have helped carry the offensive load by nearly reaching double figures in scoring average.

Much like the Huskies, the Cardinals have won three-of their last four heading into league play. Ball State is coming off a 59-35 loss at Dayton, but captured three-straight home wins prior to that contest, including a 56-47 victory over Maryland Eastern Shore on Dec. 28.

Ball State is averaging 58.7 points per game, and allowing its opponents to score 61.2 points per contest. The Cardinals are out-rebounding their opponents by more than three (+3.4) caroms per game. BSU has shot 42.7 percent from the field through 12 games, and allowed its opponents to shoot just over 42 percent (.421).

FOR MAC LIDLIFTERS
In its two combined stints as members of the Mid-American Conference, Northern Illinois has a combined 7-16 record in league-opening games. The Huskies are 4-8 in MAC openers since re-joining the league prior to the 1997-98 campaign. NIU and Ball State last faced off in a MAC opener during the 1981-82, in the Huskies' first stint as a MAC member.

START ME UP
Northern Illinois head coach Ricardo Patton has used six different starting combinations this season, a mixture that includes 11 different players. While not one player has started all 12 games, junior guard Xavier Silas has recorded starts in each of the seven contests that he has been eligible to play in.

SILAS NAMED MAC-WEST PLAYER OF THE WEEK
After averaging 25 points, three rebounds, two assists, 1.5 steals and one block per game in two non-conference home contests last week, Northern Illinois junior guard Xavier Silas captured his first-career Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week honor, the league office announced Monday afternoon. Silas shot a combined 53.3 percent (16-30) from the field, 47.4 percent (9-19) from three-point range and 81.8 percent (9-11) from the free throw line versus No. 18/19 Temple (12/30/09), a hard-fought 70-60 loss, and in a 66-45 wire-to-wire win over North Dakota last Saturday.

OFFENSE SHINES IN THE WINDY CITY
Against Chicago State on Wednesday, the Huskies recorded team season highs in points (99), field goal percentage (.574), three-point field goals (12), three-point field goal percentage (.571), free throws made (25) and assists (21). NIU committed a season-high 25 turnovers, but its 99 points were the most scored by the Huskies since Nov. 26, 2005, against Aurora (101).

GETTING DEFENSIVE
NIU's defensive effort against North Dakota (1/2/2010) was among one of the best single-game performances in the seven-year playing history of the Convo. The Fighting Sioux shot just 30 percent (12-40), the lowest defensive field goal percentage for NIU in the 83 games the Huskies have played in the facility. It also marked the lowest single-game output for field goals (12), and tied the lowest point total for an opponent over those seven seasons. NIU held an opponent under 50 points in the game for the first time since Jan. 26, 2006, when the Huskies limited MAC-West foe Central Michigan to just 43 points.

CHASING 1,000
The countdown has officially begun. Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson enters Saturday's game with 961 career points, and is just 39 tallies away from becoming the 28th player in NIU history to score 1,000 or more points. If he accomplishes the feat this season, Anderson would be just the 15th player in the NIU basketball annals to reach the 1,000-point plateau before the end of his third season. Anderson is the Huskies' career active leader in points (961), rebounds (386), assists (186), steals (82), field goals (319), three-point field goals (74) and free throws (249) made, and total minutes played (2,089/30.3 mpg).

BUILDING THE CONVINCING LEADS
In each of the Huskies' last three wins, which have all occurred in the last 15 days, Northern Illinois has built at least a 19-point lead. NIU led by a game-high 19 points with just over eight minutes remaining against Maryland Eastern Shore (12/22/09), built a 23-point lead in the first half versus North Dakota (1/2/2010), and was up by 28 points with under nine minutes remaining on Wednesday at Chicago State, before holding off a furious rally by the Cougars to claim the six-point (99-93) win.

ONE OF THE NATION'S BEST
Junior Darion "Jake" Anderson, one of the Mid-American Conference's most consistent scorers the past two seasons, has seen his scoring average dip by more than six points per game this season, but has been on a tear in the rebounding department. The 6-foot-2 guard currently boasts the nation's best rebounding average for a player standing 6-foot-2 or less (7.1 rpg). Anderson became just the third NIU guard in the Division I era to lead the Huskies in rebounding last season.

STEALIN' THE SHOW
The Huskies finished the 2008-09 season with 239 steals, which was the second-highest single-season total in program history, trailing just the 259 steals recorded during the 1994-95 campaign. NIU's 8.0 steal per game average was also the third-best total for a single-season. Darion "Jake" Anderson (46 steals) and Mike DiNunno (44) combined for 90 steals, with both efforts ranking in the top-15 individual marks in NIU history. This season, NIU is averaging 7.6 steals per game, which would qualify as the seventh-best single-season average in program history.

POINT `N SHOOT
As simple as it may sound, the Northern Illinois men's basketball team is at its best when it is shooting the ball well. The Huskies are 4-0 when shooting a better percentage than their opponent this season, and 18-6 over the past three campaigns.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE TROUBLE
Northern Illinois' junior tandem of Darion "Jake" Anderson and Sean Kowal have posted a combined three double-doubles in the early going this season. Anderson's sixth-career double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) came against Maryland Eastern Shore (12/22/09), while Kowal secured his third-career double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) in the previous contest versus Tennessee State (Nov. 20). Anderson also tallied a double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds against Southeast Missouri (11/22/09).

SEASON #15 FOR COACH "P"
Northern Illinois head coach Ricardo Patton will be embarking on his 15th season as a Division I head coach in the 2009-10 campaign. After spending 12 years as the mentor at Colorado, Patton was hired as the Huskies' 26th head coach on March 19, 2007.

FIRST-HALF SUCCESS IS KEY
As the old cliche' goes, it's not how you start, but how you finish. But how it starts may be just as important for the Northern Illinois basketball team. Under head coach Ricardo Patton, when the Huskies lead at halftime, they have compiled a record of 17-6. When NIU trails at intermission, it is just 2-42 the past two-plus seasons.

CONTROLLING THE BOARDS
When Northern Illinois has been on the positive side of the rebounding ledger the past two seasons, it has enjoyed significant success. Nineteen of the Huskies' 20 wins under head coach Ricardo Patton have occurred when NIU has out-rebounded its opponent.

HUSKIES PICKED SECOND IN MAC-WEST
One year after being picked to finish sixth in the Mid-American Conference West Division, Northern Illinois was slotted second in the 2009-10 preseason media poll, as announced by the conference office on Oct. 28. In addition, junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson was named to the preseason West Division All-MAC team for the second-consecutive season. The Huskies were picked second behind division favorite Central Michigan, who swept NIU last season.