Huskies Meet WMU Saturday in Kalamazoo



Jan. 21, 2011

Notes: Game 17 at Western Michigan Get Acrobat Reader

NIU (6-10, 2-2) at Western Michigan (9-8, 2-2)
Saturday, Jan. 22, 2011 | 2 p.m. ET
Kalamazoo, Mich. | University Arena | 5,421

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

The Match-Up
Northern Illinois faces a short turnaround on Saturday afternoon when it travels to Western Michigan, less than 48 hours after dropping a tough 66-64 decision at Central Michigan. Saturday's contest against the Broncos marks the conclusion of the round of action against MAC West opponents before the Huskies play six-straight against the MAC East. Xavier Silas led NIU last time out at Central Michigan with 24 points, Tim Toler added 14 points against the Chippewas and Nate Rucker scored 12 points and grabbed a team-best nine rebounds. At 23.6 points per contest, Silas currently ranks fifth in the nation in scoring.

About Western Michigan
Western Michigan returns home after falling, 73-60, at Toledo on Wednesday night. The loss dropped the Broncos to 9-8 overall, 2-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Demetrius Ward leads the Broncos in scoring, averaging 12.4 points per contest; Flenard Whitfield is close behind at at 12.0 points per game. Matt Stainbrook is the leading rebounder for WMU at 6.0 boards per game. Steve Hawkins is in his eighth season as the head coach of the Broncos, making him the dean of head coaches in the MAC West Division.

Against the Broncos
Northern Illinois trails in the all-time series against Western Michigan, 46-29. The two teams split a pair of meetings last season, with both teams winning on their respective home floors. WMU holds a 30-8 lead in the series in games played in Kalamazoo, NIU's last road victory against Western Michigan came on March 4, 2006.

A Whole Lot of Threes
The Huskies have caught fire from beyond the three-point arc since the beginning of conference play. Through four conference games, the Huskies are shooting 44.4 percent beyond the arc, third-best in the MAC, and have made 8.00 triples per game, tied for second-most in the conference. Tim Toler and Xavier Silas both rank in the top-10 in three-point percentage in conference games. Toler is second, shooting 60.0 percent, while Silas is 10th, shooting 47.8 percent.

Lending a Hand
NIU has been sharing the ball extremely well since the beginning of conference play. The Huskies are averaging 14.25 assists in league play, fourth-best in the MAC. NIU also has a 1.14 assist/turnover ratio as a team in MAC play, the third-best ratio in the league.

Landers in Control in Conference Play
Jeremy Landers dished out a career-best seven assists against Eastern Michigan (Jan. 11), followed by six more against Toledo (Jan. 15). Landers is averaging 4.50 assists per game in conference play, tied for fifth in the league, and has a 2.57 assist/turnover ratio, the third-best mark in the MAC in league games. 

Three's Company
The trio of Xavier Silas, Tim Toler and Nate Rucker has made a habit of reaching double figures scoring since the beginning of conference play. Silas and Toler have each been in double figures in all four conference games, while Rucker has hit double-digits in three of four contests. Silas is currently second in the league in scoring during conference games, averaging 22.5 points per game, while Toler is 10th in scoring in league contests at 15.3 points per game.

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 23.6 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 36 times in 41 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 378 points this season.

MAC Honors Times Four for Silas
Xavier Silas earned his fourth Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week honor this week after averaging 25.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in two victories over Eastern Michigan and Toledo.

Silas earned his first accolade on Nov. 22, after scoring a combined 56 points the previous week against Bradley and Cardinal Stritch. He earned his second honor the following week following a 34-point performance in a victory at Maryland-Eastern Shore. Silas' third honor came on Dec. 19, after averaging 33.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in a pair of games against Illinois-Chicago and Temple. That week included a career night against UIC when Silas scored 40 points, breaking the NIU Convocation Center scoring record.

Toler Starts 2011 With Career Highs
Tim Toler recorded new career bests in both points and rebounds in the first two games of the new year. In NIU's first game of 2011 at Iowa State (Jan. 3), Toler set a new career-high in rebounds, grabbing 10 boards as the Huskies pushed the Cyclones down to the wire. He then registered a new career-high with 22 points in the conference opener against Ball State (Jan. 8). Toler connected on 4-of-6 three-pointers against the Cardinals, he had made six threes in the first 12 games of the season combined.

Toler has continued his hot start to 2011 with 11 points against Eastern Michigan (Jan. 11), 14 points against Toledo (Jan. 15) and 14 points at Central Michigan (Jan. 20). Toler has made 12 three-pointers in conference play and is shooting 60.0 percent from beyond the arc since the beginning of MAC play, second-best in the league. Overall, Toler is shooting 40.9 percent from three this season, fifth-best in the MAC.

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.

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 second in the MAC, and 122nd nationally, shooting 70.3 percent as a team (244-of-347). Silas' 86.9 percent leads the MAC and is 41st 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 12 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 third- and fourth-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 eight, including Silas', came in a non-overtime game against a Division I opponent.

On Target
Silas' scoring increase has not come with more shots, but through hitting a higher percentage of his shots.  So far this season, Silas has made 48.0 percent of his field goals overall, while his three-point shooting is not far off that at a 43.0 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).

Landers Lights Up the Scoreboard
Jeremy Landers produced an individual offensive explosion in an eight-game stretch this season between the DePaul game (Dec. 2) and the Ball State game (Jan. 8). In those eight games, Landers averaged 10.3 points per game, after averaging just 2.6 points per contest through the first five games of the season. Landers scored in double figures five times during the stretch, remarkable considering he had just four double-digit scoring games in his first 83 career games played. 

Hall Lends a Hand
Junior Bryan Hall has cemented his spot as the Huskies' starting point guard with steady ball-handling. Hall is averaging 3.06 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 49 assists this season.  He had five assists without a turnover versus Cardinal Stritch (Nov. 21) and recorded a career-high seven assists versus just one turnover at Maryland Eastern Shore (Nov. 24). Hall tied his career-high with seven assists against Toledo (Jan. 15).

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
Northern Illinois will return home and begin six-straight games against the Mid-American Conference East Division as it hosts Akron on Wednesday, Jan. 26, at the NIU Convocation Center. Game time against the Zips is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., and the game will be shown live on SportsTime Ohio and, as well as on tape delay on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. 



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