Huskies Set to Open 2009-10 Season Friday at Northwestern

GO HUSKIES Xavier Silas is slated to make his regular season NIU debut Friday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Xavier Silas is slated to make his regular season NIU debut Friday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Nov. 12, 2009


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November 13, 2009 » Welsh-Ryan Arena » Evanston, Ill. » 7 p.m.

Match-Up At-a-Glance
Arena (Capacity): Welsh-Ryan Arena (8,117)
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Central Standard Time
Radio: Northern Illinois ISP Sports Network (Flagship WLBK, 1360, DeKalb)
Live Stats: (Gametracker)
Social Media Coverage:;
Series Record/Streak: Northwestern leads, 7-2; L1

DEKALB, Ill. - After posting two wins over Aurora (Nov. 1) and Marygrove College (Nov. 6) in exhibition action, the Northern Illinois men's basketball team will kick off its 2009-10 regular season versus host Northwestern on Friday evening at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston.

The Huskies are coming off last season's 10-20 (5-11 MAC) record, earning a fifth-place finish in the Mid-American Conference West Division. NIU ended its season by dropping a first-round MAC Tournament decision (64-61) to sixth-seeded Kent State at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Northwestern finished the 2008-09 campaign with a 17-14 (8-10 Big Ten) mark, good for ninth-place in the final Big Ten standings. The Wildcats earned a bid into the National Invitation Tournament, where NU dropped a 68-59 first-round decision on the road at Tulsa.

Northern Illinois and Northwestern will be facing off for the 10th time in school history, but for the first time since the 1986-87 season. The Huskies and Wildcats have never met in a season-opening contest, and NIU is winless all-time (0-4) at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The Huskies will play their second-consecutive road contest against a Big Ten Conference foe, heading to Champaign, Ill., for NIU's first-ever contest versus Illinois next Tuesday (Nov. 17). The Fighting Illini went 2-0 in exhibition games, and plays host to SIU-Edwardsville tonight beginning at 7 p.m.

Northern Illinois plays its 10th all-time meeting versus Northwestern Friday, and is looking for its all-time third win against the Wildcats ... The Huskies will be opening the season away from the confines of the Convocation Center for the third-consecutive season ... NIU will be playing its first Big Ten Conference opponent since Dec. 16, 2006, when the Huskies played host Michigan at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. ... The Huskies are 0-4 all-time versus Northwestern in Evanston, including a 74-63 defeat at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Dec. 1, 1986, in their last visit ... NIU's lone road win over a Big Ten opponent took place on Dec. 1, 1970 at Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich. ... Look for defense and rebounding to play a role in this game: In the 2008-09 season, Northwestern held its opponents to just 60.5 points per game (NIU allowed 70.8 ppg), while the Huskies averaged seven more rebounds per contest (35.3 rpg) than the Wildcats (28.3), including more than four offensive rebounds (12.8-8.6) per contest.

» Pick up its first season-opening win under third-year head coach Ricardo Patton
» Record its first victory over a Big Ten Conference foe since Dec. 14, 1999 (a 55-51 home win over Wisconsin)
» Give the Huskies their second-consecutive non-conference road win (NIU posted a 97-73 victory over host SEMO in the ESPNU BracketBusters series on Feb. 21, 2009)
» Secure the Huskies' first season-opening road win since the 1997-98 season

» Drop its third-straight season-opening contest
» Fall to 1-29 all-time on the road versus Big Ten Conference foes
» Drop its 36th road game in the last 41 tries, dating back to the 2006-07 season

Northwestern, entering its 105th season of men's college basketball, owns an all-time record of 920-1,358-1. The Wildcats are led by 10th-year head coach Bill Carmody, who sports a 120-149 overall record at Northwestern, and will be facing Northern Illinois for the first time in his career as the Wildcats' mentor.

As mentioned, NU finished the 2008-09 season with a 17-14 (8-10 Big Ten) record, and made its fourth all-time appearance in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). The Wildcats posted a 13-4 record at home last season, going a perfect 7-0 at Welsh-Ryan Arena during non-conference action.

The Wildcats return 12 letterwinners, including four starters, from the 2008-09 squad. Back are four of Northwestern's five-leading scorers, including senior forward Kevin Coble, who averaged a Big Ten fourth-best 15.5 points per game.

Northern Illinois trails the all-time series against Northwestern, 7-2. The Huskies' last win over the Wildcats was on Dec. 17, 1985 (76-70) in Rockford, Ill. In its two wins over the Wildcats, NIU held Northwestern to 70 points in both meetings (12/9/82 and 12/17/85). The Huskies and Wildcats met in seven-straight seasons from 1980-86, but have gone 22 seasons without renewing the rivalry. Seven of the nine all-time meetings have been decided by nine points or less, including back-to-back one-point decisions in the 1979-80 and 1980-81 campaigns.

Northern Illinois has recorded a 6-36 all-time record versus opponents affiliated with the Big Ten Conference. The Huskies are 1-3 against Indiana, 0-5 all-time versus Iowa, 0-3 against Michigan, 1-0 versus Michigan State, 0-4 against Minnesota, 2-7 versus Northwestern, 0-1 against Ohio State, 0-1 versus Purdue and 2-12 all-time against Wisconsin.

In the 104-year history of Northern Illinois basketball, the Huskies have compiled a 59-44 all-time record in season-opening games. In the Division I era (1967-present), NIU is 21-20 in season-openers. NIU's first-ever basketball season was 1900-01, but there was no intercollegiate competition for the Huskies in any of the 1905-06, 1906-07, 1907-08, 1908-09 or 1909-10 seasons. The Huskies dropped their season opener versus Maine in the 100 Club Classic (Kennesaw, Ga.) last season, 77-64, and have lost four-of the last five initial contests of the season overall.

Northern Illinois will play in the city of Chicago or its nearby suburbs three times this season. After Friday's contest versus host Northwestern, the Huskies still have scheduled road games at both Illinois-Chicago (Dec. 19) and Chicago State (Jan. 6) in non-conference action.

For the third-consecutive season under head coach Ricardo Patton, the Huskies will play at least their first two games of the season away from DeKalb. NIU, which will play at Illinois next Tuesday (Nov. 17), played its first two games of the 2008-09 campaign in a neutral site tournament (the 100 Club Classic) in Kennesaw, Ga., and in Patton's first season at NIU (2007-08), the Huskies played their first five contests away from the confines of the Convocation Center.

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.

In its college basketball preview edition, Sporting News went one step further. The publication tabbed NIU to capture the West Division title, ahead of CMU, Ball State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Toledo.

In the 2009-10 season, the Huskies will field a roster with nine Illinois natives, including eight players from the Chicagoland region. True sophomores Mike DiNunno and Bryan Hall, redshirt freshman Keith Smith, along with redshirt sophomore Michael Fakuade and junior Darion "Jake" Anderson, all hail from the Windy City. Redshirt sophomore Lee Fisher is a Dolton, Ill., native, while freshman newcomer Tony Nixon hails from South Holland, Ill., and Justin Peaster is an Aurora, Ill., product.

The Huskies and Wildcats met in seven-straight seasons from 1980-86, but have gone 22 seasons without renewing the rivalry. Seven of the nine all-time meetings have been decided by nine points or less, including back-to-back one-point decisions in the 1979-80 and 1980-81 campaigns.

Northern Illinois head coach Ricardo Patton enters 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.

In 2009-10, Northern Illinois returns 88 percent of its scoring, 79 percent of its rebounding and 87 percent of its assist totals from the 2008-09 season. The Huskies return 12 letterwinners, including four starters, and back are the Huskies' top-three scorers (Darion "Jake Anderson, 16.9 ppg; Mike DiNunno, 11.9 ppg and Sean Kowal, 9.4 ppg).

After sitting out the 2008-09 season to satisfy NCAA transfer regulations, junior guard Xavier Silas will make his much-anticipated regular season debut in a Northern Illinois uniform Friday versus Northwestern. Silas was a part of then-Colorado head coach Ricardo Patton's eight-member 2006-07 recruiting class, and averaged double-figures in scoring for two seasons (2006-07, 2007-08) with the Buffaloes before transferring to NIU and re-joining Patton and his staff prior to last season. Silas scored 30 and 28 points, respectively, in the Huskies' two exhibition games versus Aurora (Nov. 1) and Marygrove College (Nov. 6). Silas was named a top-10 NCAA Division I transfer by during the offseason.

Darion "Jake" Anderson, the 2008 Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year and a 2009 second-team All-MAC performer, returns for his junior season after ranking fourth in the MAC in scoring (16.9 ppg), 12th in rebounding (5.4 rpg), 15th in assists per game (2.41), 15th in free throw percentage (.472), seventh in steals per game (1.58), eighth in three-point field goal percentage (.371), 10th in three-point field goals per game (1.59), 10th in defensive rebounds (4.17 rpg) and 11th in minutes played (31.2 mpg) last season. He was a four-time MAC-West Player of the Week, posted 25 double-digit scoring outputs and led the Huskies in scoring on 17 occasions.

Anderson was named to the preseason All-MAC West team.

Sophomore guard Mike DiNunno was named to the Mid-American Conference All-Freshman Team last season after leading all league freshmen freshmen in scoring (12.3 ppg), assists (2.62 apg), free throw percentage (.732), three-point field goals made per game (1.93) and minutes played (29.34 mpg). He ended the campaign tied for 11th in the MAC in steals per game (1.47), and was ranked fourth in the league in three-point field goals made per game (1.97). DiNunno recorded 18 double-digit scoring outputs, including seven in conference play, and led NIU in both assists (76) and three-pointers (56).

In just his first full season of college basketball, junior center Sean Kowal led the Mid-American Conference in field goal percentage (.551). In an average of 25.9 minutes per game, he scored 9.4 points, corralled 5.2 rebounds and tallied 0.8 blocks per contest. Kowal posted 15 double-digit scoring efforts, and recorded two doubles-doubles on the season.

Xavier Silas is one-of four newcomers to join the Northern Illinois basketball team this season. Other first-year players include true freshman guard Tony Nixon, who led Seton Academy to a 2A state championship last March, St. Ignatius product and redshirt freshman point guard Keith Smith, who sat out his first season at NIU with an injured shoulder; and recruited walk-on guard Antone Christian (Nashville, Tenn.), who is expected to redshirt the the 2009-10 campaign.

The Huskies' 2009-10 schedule is a challenging slate that includes NIU's first-ever contest against Illinois, along with four other games versus 2009 NCAA Tournament participants. Including the five NCAA Tournament teams, the Huskies will play a total of 10 games against opponents that appeared in the postseason last spring. Four of those contests will come against Mid-American Conference East Division foes (Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo and Kent State) when the league slate kicks off in January.

Northern Illinois head men's basketball coach Ricardo Patton's original roots are in the state of Tennessee, and he continues to scour the "Volunteer State" for young talent in his ongoing vision of restoring the tradition of Huskie basketball. The latest Tennessee native to join the program is 6-foot-6, 245-pound Memphis native Nate Rucker, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball and continue his education at Northern Illinois Wednesday. He joins senior forward and Memphis native Najul Ervin, and freshman guard Antone Christian, who is a native of Nashville, as players hailing from the state of Tennessee, to join the NIU program since Patton took over in DeKalb prior to the 2007-08 campaign.



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