Huskies Travel to Division Favorite Central Michigan Saturday

GO HUSKIES With a win, NIU would sweep the first series of MAC-West play.
GO HUSKIES
With a win, NIU would sweep the first series of MAC-West play.
GO HUSKIES

Jan. 22, 2010

NORTHERN ILLINOIS (8-8, 4-0 MAC) AT CENTRAL MICHIGAN (8-8, 3-1 MAC) » January 23, 2010 » Rose Arena » Mt. Pleasant, Mich. » 5:30 p.m. CST

Match-Up At-a-Glance
Arena: Rose Arena (5,200)
Tip-off: 5:30 p.m. CST (or 30 minutes after preceding women's game)
Radio: Northern Illinois ISP Sports Network (WLBK, 1360, [DeKalb], 670 WSCR [Chicago])
Live Stats: NIUHuskies.com/CMUChippewas.com (Live Stats)
Social Media Coverage: Twitter.com/NIUAthletics; Twitter.com/MACMBBall
Series Record/Streak: Northern Illinois leads, 47-41/L7

Game Notes as Downloadable PDF Get Acrobat Reader

DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois will look to sweep the first-round of Mid-American Conference West Division play Saturday, when the Huskies travel to Mt. Pleasant, Mich., to take on host Central Michigan, the preseason MAC-West favorite. NIU has dropped seven-straight decisions versus the Chippewas.

NIU is coming off Wednesday's 58-54 win over host Toledo at John F. Savage Arena. Junior guard Xavier Silas poured in a game-high 19 points, including three-consecutive three-pointers with under eight minutes remaining, and the Huskies held the Rockets to just a 33.3 percent shooting effort in the second half.

Silas' game-high 19 points came on a 6-for-14 effort from the field, including a 4-of-4 tally from the free throw line. Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, and hit two key free throws with just 4.4 seconds remaining to give NIU a decisive two-possession lead.

Junior guard Michael Patton came off the bench to score a season-high eight points, including two three-pointers, while sophomore forward Lee Fisher added seven points to go along with four rebounds. Junior center Sean Kowal chipped in nine points on a perfect 3-for-3 shooting effort, and pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.

NEXT UP ...
Northern Illinois will wrap up the month of January with a two-game homestand, beginning with a 7 p.m. contest against MAC-East foe Ohio next Wednesday (Jan. 27) at 7 p.m., at the Convocation Center. The Bobcats are 9-9 on the season, but off to an 0-4 start to MAC action. Ohio dropped a 65-57 decision at Bowling Green on Wednesday night.

GAME DATA
Northern Illinois will be looking to extend its record-setting start to Mid-American Conference play, and improve to 5-0 in the league for the first time in school history Saturday -- the Huskies have served two stints as a MAC member (1975-86 and 1997-present) ... The Huskies have dropped three-straight, and six-of-seven, against the Chippewas in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. ... CMU has claimed seven-consecutive wins over NIU (dating back to the 2006-07 season), by an average of more than 11 points per game ... In the two meetings between the Huskies and Central Michigan last season, Northern Illinois was out-scored by an average of 16 points per game, and out-rebounded by 6.5 rebounds per contest -- NIU shot a combined 36.8 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three-point range and 39.5 percent from the free throw line in those setbacks ... Sophomore guard Mike DiNunno averaged 16.5 points per game versus CMU last season, including a game-high 25 points in the Chippewas' 58-45 win at the Convocation Center (1/24/09) ... During NIU's six-game winning streak, the Huskies are averaging 74.8 points, 39.5 rebounds, 16.5 assists, 7.7 steals and and 4.5 blocks per game -- NIU is shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range during the stretch ... NIU has won three-straight road games for the first time since defeating hosts Toledo, Ball State and Ohio in succession during the 2002-03 season ... Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson enters Saturday's game just three assists away from becoming 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 (197) -- he would join Mike McKinney (2003-07) in that department.

WITH A WIN, NIU WOULD ...
» Record its first seven-game winning streak since the 1995-96 campaign
» Start out 5-0 in Mid-American Conference play for the first time in school history
» Record its first win over Central Michigan since Feb. 22, 2006, a span of eight meetings

WITH A LOSS, NIU WOULD ...
» Drop to 3-6 at on the road this season
» Lose its first MAC game of the season, and suffer its first setback in the month of January
» Fall to Central Michigan at Rose Arena for the fourth-straight season

SCOUTING THE HUSKIES
After starting out the season 2-8, Northern Illinois enters Saturday's game with an 8-8 overall record, and is off to a 4-0 start in Mid-American Conference play, its best start to a MAC season in program history. NIU is 3-5 on the road this season, with three-straight wins away from home versus Chicago State (1/6/2010), Ball State (1/9/2010) and Toledo (1/30/2010).

The Huskies are being led offensively by junior guard Xavier Silas, who is averaging a team-high 19.3 points per game, including a league-best 21 points per MAC contest. Junior backcourt mate Darion "Jake" Anderson has provided 11.1 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds per contest while shooting nearly 43 percent (.424) from the field. Junior center Sean Kowal has added 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game on a 54.2 percent effort from the floor, which ranks second in the MAC.

NIU is averaging 65.8 points per game, and allowing its opponents to score 67.6 points per contest. The Huskies are shooting 40.7 percent from the field, 30.1 percent from three-point range and 62.1 percent from the free throw line. NIU is out-rebounding its opponents by nearly three caroms (+2.8) per game, and is averaging 16.4 turnovers per contest.

On the road, the Huskies are averaging 59.6 points per game, and are edging their opponents on the boards, 38.4-37.1. In six road games this season, Silas is averaging a team-high 17.2 points per outing. In NIU's past three road games, all wins, the Huskies have had three players averaging double figures in scoring, led by Silas' 22.7 points per game. Sean Kowal has scored 10.7 points and Mike DiNunno has added 10.3 points per game in those outings.

SCOUTING THE CHIPPEWAS
Central Michigan, the preseason favorite in the Mid-American Conference West Division, has won four-of its last five overall, including Wednesday's 71-63 win over rival Eastern Michigan at Rose Arena. The Chippewas are 5-1 at home this season, with its lone loss coming in the season opener against Princeton (71-68 on 11/14/09).

The Chippewas are led offensively by senior guard Robbie Harman, who is averaging 14.4 points per game on a near 43 percent (.427) effort from the field. Senior backcourt member Jordan Bitzer is scoring 13 points per contest, and is shooting a team-best 87 percent from the free throw line. One of the most veteran-laden teams in the MAC, CMU's starting five is comprised of all juniors and seniors.

Central Michigan is averaging 62.6 points per game, and allowing its opponents to score 62.1 points per contest. The Chippewas are out-rebounding their opponents by an average of 2.7 boards per game, and are averaging 16.5 turnovers per contest. CMU leads the MAC in three-point percentage (.369) and steals per game (9.06). The Chippewas are pacing the league in scoring defense (54.8 ppg) and three-point field goals (8.0) in MAC games.

PLAYER(S) OF THE WEEK LIVE HERE
The Northern Illinois men's basketball team is taking quick ownership of the weekly awards in the Mid-American Conference West Division. Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson, after joining the Huskies' 1,000-point club and leading NIU to consecutive home wins over league foes Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan, was tabbed the MAC-West Player of the Week, the conference office announced Monday.

Junior guard Xavier Silas' first two career weekly honors (1/4/2010 and 1/11/2010) coupled with Anderson's plaudit gives NIU three-straight MAC-West Player of the Week awards for the first time in school history. Anderson has now claimed six West Division Player of the Week tallies in his two-plus year career. Against WMU and EMU, Anderson averaged 17.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game on a 52.2 field goal percentage.

MR. 1,000
Darion "Jake" Anderson became the 28th player in NIU basketball history to score 1,000 or more career points, and just the 15th player to accomplish the feat during his third season, with his 22 points versus Eastern Michigan last Saturday. Anderson is the Huskies' career active leader in points (1,010), rebounds (416), assists (197), steals (89), field goals (334), three-point field goals (77) and free throws (265) made, and total minutes played (2,216/30.4 mpg).

IT'S A NEW SEASON
The Huskies are the lone remaining unbeaten team in Mid-American Conference play, and in the latest version of the MAC-only stats (through games of Jan. 20), the numbers have been backing up their early success. Through four MAC contests, the Huskies are leading the league in scoring offense (72.0 ppg), assists (15.0), blocks (5.0), assist/turnover ratio (1.09) and field goal percentage defense (.355) and defensive rebounds (28.25). NIU also ranks second scoring margin (+9.0), three-point field goal percentge (.397), rebounding margin (+3.8) and three-point field goals made per game (7.25). As mentioned, junior guard Xavier Silas leads the league in scoring (21.0 ppg) in MAC games, while Mike DiNunno paces the MAC in assists per game (6.0); and Sean Kowal is atop the league in field goal percentage, shooting at a 71.4 percent clip (15-of-21).

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION?
Judged by the sheet of ice covering the ground and vehicles surrounding the northern Illinois region, it is safe to say the weather outside is frightful. But for the 2009-10 NIU basketball team, the month of January, and the start of the 2010 calendar year, has represented the hottest month in recent memory. NIU is off to a 6-0 start in January, the most victories the Huskies have compiled in a single month since winning seven games in the month of December during the 1994-95 season.

START ME UP, COACH
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 7-1 record.

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 five 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.

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 7.4 steals per game, which would qualify as the ninth-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 7-0 when shooting a better percentage than their opponent this season, and 21-6 over the past three campaigns. In addition, the Huskies are 5-0 when shooting 35 percent or better from three-point range this season.

DOUBLE-DOUBLE TROUBLE
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).

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 18-6. When NIU trails at intermission, it is just 4-42 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. Twenty-one of the Huskies' 24 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.

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.