NIU Heads to Buffalo for Saturday Matinee



Jan. 28, 2011

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NIU (7-11, 3-3) at Buffalo (12-6, 4-2)

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011 | 12 p.m. ET
Buffalo, N.Y. | Alumni Arena | 6,100

NIU Radio Availability
WLBK  | 1360 AM | DeKalb
WLBK  | 670 AM | Chicago
WJOL  | 1340 AM | Joliet
WKRS  | 1220 AM | Waukegan

The Match-Up
NIU travels to Buffalo for its first road game against a member of the MAC East Division on Saturday, Jan. 29, at noon (ET) at Alumni Arena in Buffalo. The Huskies are 7-11 overall, 3-3 in the Mid-American Conference after earning an 83-74 victory over Akron at home on Wednesday night. Xavier Silas paced the Huskies with 39 points against the Zips, Nate Rucker and Antone Christian each netted 13 points for NIU. Tim Toler recorded a new career high with 12 rebounds in the contest. With his 39 points, Silas has moved into a tie for second in the nation in scoring at 24.4 points per game; he is tied with UConn's Kemba Walker and three points behind BYU's Jimmer Fredette.

About Buffalo
The Bulls have won four-straight, including a 79-68 win at Western Michigan in their last contest, to improve to 12-6 overall, 4-2 in the MAC. Three Buffalo players are scoring in double figures, led by Zach Filzen's 14.8 points per game, 62 of Filzen's 89 field goals have come from beyond the three-point line, he ranks third in the nation in triples per game. Byron Mulkey (14.3 ppg) and Javon McCrea (10.7) also score in double figures for the Bulls; McCrea also leads UB at 6.9 rebounds per game. Mulkey is also second in the nation in steals, averaging 3.1 thefts per game. Reggie Witherspoon is in his 12th season as the head coach at Buffalo, he is the second-most tenured coach in the MAC.

Against the Bulls
Northern Illinois leads the all-time series against Buffalo, 13-11, but the Bulls have an 8-5 edge in games in Buffalo and have also won four-straight overall in the series. NIU is 0-3 all-time under Ricardo Patton against the Bulls. 

Sick Silas Nearly Nets 40
Despite missing practice two days prior, and being limited the day before, Xavier Silas scored 39 points to help NIU to an 83-74 win over Akron (Jan. 26). Silas was 9-of-17 from the field, including 5-of-9 from three, and 16-of-20 from the charity stripe in the contest with five NBA scouts watching courtside. Silas is one of just two players in the country with two-or-more games of 39-plus points, Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette has four such games. 

A Familiar Five
NIU has seen a consistent quintet take the floor to begin games this season. The Huskies have started the same five (Bryan Hall, Tim Toler, Nate Rucker, Jeremy Landers and Xavier Silas) for the last 15  games of the season. The only other players who have started this season are Michael Patton, who has made two starts, Kyree Jones and Tony Nixon, who have each made one start.  

Toler Hits the Glass
Although he scored just two points, his lowest total since Nov. 21, Tim Toler contributed in other ways in NIU's victory over Akron (Jan. 26), including grabbing a career-best 12 rebounds. It was the second double-digit rebounding performance of the season for Toler, the first came on Jan. 3 at Iowa State. Beginning with that contest, Toler is averaging a team-best 6.4 boards per game over the last seven games.

When Opportunity Knocks ... Christian Answers
After not seeing any action in the previous three games, Antone Christian provided a spark off the NIU bench with a career-high eight points against Western Michigan (Jan. 22). Proving that he wasn't a one-hit wonder, Christian backed up that performance with another new career-best 13 points against Akron (Jan. 26). The redshirt freshman from Nashville also set a new career-high with six rebounds against the Zips.

A Whole Lot of Threes
The Huskies have caught fire from beyond the three-point arc since the beginning of conference play. Through the first six conference games, the Huskies are shooting 44.0 percent beyond the arc, second in the MAC, and have made 8.0 triples per game, tied for second-most in the conference. Overall on the season, Xavier Silas and Tim Toler both rank in the top-10 in three-point percentage. Silas is shooting 44.6 percent for the year, third in the conference. Toler meanwhile is shooting 42.3 percent on the season, fourth in the MAC.

Valuing the Basketball
Since the beginning of MAC play, the Huskies have been the league's top team in assist/turnover ratio. As a team, NIU has a 1.19 assist/turnover ratio, with 80 assists and 67 turnovers during conference play. Individually, a pair of Huskies rank in the top-five in the conference in assist/turnover ratio during MAC play. Bryan Hall is second at 2.60 (Hall is also fourth in all games at 1.93) and Jeremy Landers is fourth at 2.10. 

Silas Among the Nation's Elite Scorers
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 24.4 points per game, tied for second in the nation (with UConn's Kemba Walker) 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 38 times in 43 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 440 points this season.

Hall Guides the Ship
Junior Bryan Hall has cemented his spot as the Huskies' starting point guard with steady ball-handling. Hall is averaging 3.22 assists per game, 12th-best in the Mid-American Conference. He has dished out 4.33 assists per game since the beginning of conference play, tied for fourth-best in the MAC. After finishing the 2009-10 season with 33 turnovers and 40 assists, Hall leads NIU with 58 assists this season.  More than just a passer, against Western Michigan (Jan. 22), Hall stuffed the stat sheet with five points, four rebounds, five assists and a career-best four steals.

Three's Company
In five of six conference games this season, the Huskies have had at least three players score in double figures. Xavier Silas has been in double figures in all six games, while Tim Toler has reached the mark in five conference contests. Silas is first in scoring in conference games at 25.3 points per game while Toler is averaging 13.5 points during conference play. Nate Rucker has been in double figures in four conference games, Jeremy Landers has hit double-digits twice and Antone Christian reached the mark once. NIU had three players score in double figures in six of its 12 non-conference games.

Toler Dials Long Distance
Tim Toler has made 22 three-point field goals this season, second-best on the team behind Xavier Silas. Toler entered MAC play just 6-of-24 from beyond the arc, but has caught fire in conference, shooting 16-of-28 from three. Toler is second in three-point percentage in conference play and tied for sixth in triples made.

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). He has since surpassed his career high in rebounding, pulling down 12 boards in a victory over Akron (Jan. 26).

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 saecond in the MAC, shooting 70.1 percent as a team. Silas' 85.8 percent is second in the MAC and 42nd 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 14 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 nine, including Silas', came in a non-overtime game against a Division I opponent. BYU's Jimmer Fredette is the only player in the country with three 40+ point games.

MAC Honors Times Four for Silas
Xavier Silas earned his fourth Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week honor last 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.

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 48.6 percent of his field goals overall, while his three-point shooting is not far off that at a 44.6 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. 

Rough Ride through Michigan
NIU suffered a pair of heartbreaking two-point losses on a single road trip in the State of Michigan. First at Central Michigan (Jan. 20), the Huskies lost 66-64 after having a chance to tie the game on the final possession, only to see a Xavier Silas baseline jumper blocked. Two days later at Western Michigan (Jan. 22), the Huskies were poised to go to overtime with the Broncos until an offensive rebound tip-in for WMU gave NIU another two-point defeat, 82-80. A win in Kalamazoo or Mt. Pleasant would have been a first for NIU under Ricardo Patton.

Silas a Senior CLASS Candidate
Xavier Silas was 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. Silas was not chosen as one of the 10 Lowe's Senior CLASS Finalists.

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
The Huskies return home on Wednesday, Feb. 2, when they host Bowling Green at the NIU Convocation Center. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m.



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