Huskies Host Eastern Michigan Saturday Eyeing Fifth-Straight Win

GO HUSKIES DiNunno has been scoring and facilitating this season.
DiNunno has been scoring and facilitating this season.

Jan. 15, 2010

NORTHERN ILLINOIS (6-8, 2-0 MAC) VS. EASTERN MICHIGAN (9-6, 1-1 MAC) » January 16, 2010 » Convocation Center » DeKalb, Ill. » 1 p.m.

Match-Up At-a-Glance
Arena: Convocation Center (9,100)
Tip-off: 1 p.m. Central Standard Time
Radio: Northern Illinois ISP Sports Network (Flagship WLBK, 1360, DeKalb)
Cybercast: Huskie All-Access
Live Stats: (Gametracker)
Social Media Coverage:;
Series Record/Streak: Northern Illinois leads, 45-27/L1

Game Notes as Downloadable PDF Get Acrobat Reader

DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois will look to remain unbeaten in the 2010 calendar year, when the Huskies take on visiting Eastern Michigan in a Mid-American Conference West Division battle at the Convocation Center Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. The Huskies enter the game on a four-game winning streak, the longest of its kind since the 2005-06 season.

NIU is coming off Wednesday's 87-77 win over Western Michigan in the Huskies' MAC home opener. Sophomore guard Mike DiNunno tallied his first-career double-double with a season-high 21 points, including a career-high six three-pointers, to go along with a career-best 10 assists. Joining DiNunno in double figures was junior center Sean Kowal (18 points, team-high seven rebounds), junior guard Xavier Silas (15 points on 9-12 from free throw line) and junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson (12 points, six rebounds, four assists). WMU was led by MAC leading scorer David Kool's 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting.

NIU drilled 12 three-pointers, a season-high, and dished out a season-best tying 21 assists on 28 field goals. With the win, the Huskies improved to 4-0 in the month of January, and secured their first 2-0 start to a MAC season since the 1980-81 campaign.

Northern Illinois will travel to Toledo, Ohio to take on the Rockets in its fourth-straight MAC-West divisional outing on Wednesday (Jan. 20) night, with tip-off from Savage Arena scheduled for 6 p.m. CST. Toledo enters Sunday's contest at Ball State with a 3-13 (0-2 MAC) record, and has dropped six-straight contests, including the Rockets' first two MAC games.

Northern Illinois will be looking to start out 3-0 in Mid-American Conference play for the first time since the 1980-81 campaign Saturday ... Northern Illinois is 42-42 at the Convocation Center since playing its first game at the facility on Nov. 23, 2002 ... The Huskies have compiled a 22-29 record against MAC opponents at the Convocation Center over those seven seasons ... Eastern Michigan recorded a 75-61 win over NIU in the last meeting between the two schools (3/4/09 in Ypsilanti, Mich.), but the Huskies defeated the Eagles, 72-52, on Jan. 20, 2009 in DeKalb ... Head coach Ricardo Patton owns a 144-62 home record as a college head coach, dating back to his 12-year run at Colorado ... During NIU's four-game winning streak, the Huskies are averaging 78.5 points, 40.8 rebounds, 18.8 assists against just 15.0 turnovers, 8.0 steals and and 4.5 blocks per game -- NIU is shooting 46.5 percent from the field, 48.8 percent from three-point range and 67.3 percent from the free throw line during the stretch ... Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson, who passed the 400-rebound plateau Wednesday night versus Western Michigan, is approaching several milestones -- along with chasing 1,000 points (978), Anderson is also nearing 200 career assists (192) -- he would be just the second NIU player in the Division I era to score 1,000 points, pull down 400 or more rebounds and dish out at least 200 assists ... Senior forward Najul Ervin enters the EMU game with 195 points, and is just five tallies away from becoming the third active NIU player to boast at least 200 career points and 200 rebounds.

» Record its first five-game winning streak since tallying the feat twice during the 2002-03 campaign
» Start out 3-0 in Mid-American Conference play for just the fourth time as a MAC member (1976-77, 1977-78, 1980-81)
» Record its second-straight win over EMU at the Convocation Center, and the ninth in the last 10 meetings in DeKalb

» Drop to 4-4 at home this season
» Lose its first MAC game of the season, and have its four-game winning streak snapped
» Fall to Eastern Michigan for the second-straight time

Northern Illinois enters Saturday's game with a 6-8 overall record, and is off to a 2-0 start in Mid-American Conference play. The Huskies are 4-0 in the month of January, and have out-scored those opponents by nearly 13 points per game (+12.4). NIU is 4-3 at home this season, with wins over Tennessee State (11/20/09), Maryland Eastern Shore (12/22/09), North Dakota (1/2/2010) and Western Michigan (1/13/2010).

The Huskies are being led offensively by junior guard Xavier Silas, who is averaging a team-high 18.7 points per game in nine starts this season. Junior backcourt mate Darion "Jake" Anderson has provided 10.4 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds per contest while shooting nearly 43 percent (.424) from the field, and almost 70 percent (.692) from the free throw line. Junior center Sean Kowal has added 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game on a 53 percent effort from the field.

NIU is averaging 65.5 points per game, and allowing its opponents to score 68.5 points per contest. The Huskies are shooting 40.6 percent from the field, 30.1 percent from three-point range and 60.1 percent from the free throw line. NIU is out-rebounding its opponents by more than three caroms (+3.1) per game, and is averaging 16.5 turnovers per contest.

At home, the Huskies are averaging 71.1 points per game, and are out-rebounding their opponents by nearly five per game, 39.3-34.4. Silas is averaging 21.0 points in three home games, while Anderson is scoring 13.1 points and pulling down 8.3 rebounds per home contest. Sean Kowal's 18-point (8-11 shooting) effort against Western Michigan pushed his home scoring average into double digits (11.3 ppg).

Eastern Michigan, which defeated visiting Toledo (74-59) in its MAC home opener on Wednesday, is 9-6 on the season, and has won three-of its last four games. The Eagles are 2-4 on the road this season, with wins over Oakland (11/14/09) and Southeast Missouri (11/24/09).

The Eagles are led by junior forward Brandon Bowdry, who is averaging a team-high 18.5 points per game, and a MAC-best 10.5 rebounds per contest. Bowdry leads the MAC with nine double-doubles this season. Senior point guard Carlos Medlock has added 14.3 points per game to go along with 56 assists, while senior forward Justin Dobbins is averaging 11.1 points per game on a 65 percent field goal shooting effort in eight starts.

EMU is averaging 67.9 points per game, and allowing its opponents to score 66.0 points per contest. The Eagles have out-rebounded their 15 opponents by an average of 1.6 boards per game, and are averaging 14.3 turnovers per contest.

As if securing its first four-game winning streak since the 2005-06 MAC-West championship season wasn't enough, Wednesday's win over Western Michigan represented several single-game highs and season-best marks for the Huskies. NIU drilled a season-best tying 12 three-pointers in the contest, dished out a season-high 21 assists on its 28 field goals and had a season-high nine blocks, the most for NIU since posting nine blocks against Loyola-Chicago on Dec. 15, 2007. The Huskies also erased a 14-point first-half deficit, their largest deficit overcome to win a game this season.

The development continues. Arguably, sophomore point guard Mike DiNunno deserves as much credit for NIU's recent success as anyone on the Huskie roster. In the last six games, DiNunno is averaging 10.8 points and 4.5 assists per game, and has drilled 15 three-pointers. What is more relevant to the Huskies' recent surge, however, is DiNunno's ability to direct the offense, and protect the ball -- his assist/turnover ratio in the last six games is 3.86 (27 assists, seven turnovers). DiNunno enters Saturday's game as the MAC's leader in assists (15), and is second in assist/turnover ratio (5.00) through the league's first two contests.

Junior guard Xavier Silas is quickly becoming a familiar name at the Mid-American Conference headquarters. After averaging 24.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and three assists per game in a pair of road wins last week, Silas was named the MAC-West Player of the Week for the period ending Jan. 10, the league office announced Monday morning. Silas has now earned two-consecutive West Division Player of the Week plaudits, and was tabbed the MAC Male Scholar Athlete of the Week to wrap up the month of December (12/29/09).

Northern Illinois head coach Ricardo Patton has used six different starting combinations this season, but seems to have found the lineup that will lead NIU in the foreseeable future, and for good reason. The Huskies' starting combination of Darion "Jake" Anderson, Mike DiNunno, Xavier Silas, Michael Fakuade and Lee Fisher has compiled a 5-1 record in the past five games.

Junior guard Xavier Silas' impact on Northern Illinois' success through the first 14 games of the season has certainly not gone unnoticed. Four-of the Huskies' six wins this season have come with Silas in the lineup (he sat out five games with a fractured shooting hand suffered in the season opener at Northwestern), and NIU is averaging more than eight more points, over two more rebounds and more than four more assists per game than the contests he did not appear in. The Huskies' free throw percentage this season has also improved from a 54 percent clip to a 62.8 percent mark with Silas in the lineup.

The countdown has officially begun. Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson enters Wednesday's game with 978 career points, and is just 22 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, rebounds (402), assists (192), steals (85), field goals (325), three-point field goals (77) and free throws (251) made, and total minutes played (2,162/30.5 mpg).

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 (7.2 rpg). Anderson became just the third NIU guard in the Division I era to lead the Huskies in rebounding last season.

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 7.4 steals per game, which would qualify as the ninth-best single-season average in program history.

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 5-0 when shooting a better percentage than their opponent this season, and 19-6 over the past three campaigns. In addition, the Huskies are 5-0 when shooting 35 percent or better from three-point range this season.

Northern Illinois sophomore guard Mike DiNunno became the third player this season to record a double-double with his 21 points and 10 assists versus Western Michigan (1/16/2010). The Huskies' junior tandem of Darion "Jake" Anderson and Sean Kowal have also posted a combined three double-doubles. 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 first double-double this season came with 23 points and 13 rebounds against Southeast Missouri (11/22/09).

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 3-42 the past two-plus seasons.

When Northern Illinois has been on the positive side of the rebounding ledger the past two seasons, it has enjoyed significant success. Twenty-one of the Huskies' 22 wins under head coach Ricardo Patton have occurred when NIU has out-rebounded its opponent.

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.



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