Huskies Travel to Champaign for First-Ever Meeting with Illinois Tuesday

GO HUSKIES Junior center Sean Kowal
GO HUSKIES
Junior center Sean Kowal
GO HUSKIES

Nov. 16, 2009

NORTHERN ILLINOIS (0-1) AT #23/25 ILLINOIS (1-0) November 17, 2009 » Assembly Hall » Champaign, Ill. » 7 p.m.

Match-Up At-a-Glance
Arena (Capacity): Assembly Hall (16,618)
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Central Standard Time
Radio: Northern Illinois ISP Sports Network (Flagship WLBK, 1360, DeKalb)
Television: ESPN360.com
Live Stats: NIUHuskies.com/FightingIllini.com (Gametracker)
Social Media Coverage: Twitter.com/NIUAthletics; Twitter.com/MACMBBall
Series Record/Streak: First meeting

Game Notes Get Acrobat Reader

DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois will play its second-consecutive road game against a Big Ten Conference foe Tuesday, when the Huskies travel to Champaign, Ill., for the first-ever meeting with No. 23/25 Illinois at Assembly Hall beginning at 7 p.m. NIU is coming off last Friday's 77-55 defeat at Northwestern in the 2009-10 regular season opener.

Against the Wildcats, NIU's junior backcourt tandem of Xavier Silas and Darion "Jake" Anderson combined for 33 points and 15 rebounds, but the Huskies committed 17 turnovers and shot just 50 percent (13-26) from the free throw line in the setback.

In his NIU debut, Silas, a junior Colorado transfer, finished with a team-high 18 points to go along with seven rebounds in 26 minutes of action, and Anderson chipped in 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting, with eight rebounds. Northwestern placed four players in double figures, led by Jeremy Nash's 20 points. The Huskies were plagued by foul trouble in both the first and second half, with Silas and Anderson eventually fouling out of the contest.

NIU shot 40.8 percent (20-49) from the field, but converted just 2-of-18 attempts from three-point range. The Huskies were out-rebounded by the Wildcats, 38-33, and had 15 assists against their 17 turnovers.

NEXT UP ...
Northern Illinois will open the home portion of its 2009-10 schedule Friday (Nov. 20), when the Huskies host Tennessee State at the Convocation Center beginning at 7 p.m. The Tigers dropped an 85-69 decisison at home against Siena on Nov. 13, and will be idle until Friday's contest.

GAME DATA
Against Illinois, Northern Illinois will be playing a Big Ten Conference opponent in back-to-back games for the first time since the 1984-85 season, when the Huskies took on Northwestern (Dec. 15, 1984), followed by Wisconsin one week later (Dec. 22, 1984) ... The Huskies have played at least their first two games away from the confines of the Convocation Center in three-straight seasons ... Prior to last Friday's game at Northwestern, NIU had not faced a Big Ten Conference opponent since Dec. 16, 2006, when the Huskies played host Michigan at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Mich. ... NIU's lone road win over a Big Ten opponent took place on Dec. 1, 1970 at Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich. ... NIU and Illinois share two common opponents this season, Northwestern and Minnesota ... Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson enters Tuesday's game with 848 points, and is one bucket away from reaching 850 for his career -- he is on pace to reach the 1,000-point plateau in early January, and would be the 28th player in NIU history to accomplish that feat.

WITH A WIN, NIU WOULD ...
» Improve to 1-0 all-time versus Illinois, and pick up just its second-ever road win over a Big Ten Conference team
» Record its first victory over a Big Ten Conference foe since Dec. 14, 1999 (a 55-51 home win over Wisconsin)
» Win its second game of the season for the second-consecutive year (NIU defeated Western Illinois, 65-54, in the second game of the 2008-09 campaign)
» Capture head coach Ricardo Patton's third win over a non-conference foe from the state of Illinois (Western Illinois and Chicago State represent the other two wins)

WITH A LOSS, NIU WOULD ...
» Fall to 1-30 all-time on the road versus Big Ten Conference foes
» Drop its 37th road game in the last 42 tries, dating back to the 2006-07 season
» Start out 0-2 for the third time in the past nine years

ABOUT THE ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI
Illinois, playing its 104th season of men's college basketball, owns an all-time record of 1,610-853. The Fighting Illini are led by seventh-year head coach Bruce Weber, who sports a 153-57 overall record at Illinois, and will be facing Northern Illinois for the first time in his head coaching career.

Illinois finished the 2008-09 season with a 24-10 (11-7 Big Ten) record, finished second in the regular season Big Ten standings and made its 28th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, where the Fighting Illini dropped a 76-72 decision to Western Kentucky in the first round. Illinois went 14-3 at home last season, and is 1-0 at Assembly Hall in 2009-10, by way of its 96-69 win over SIU-Edwardsville last Friday (Nov. 13).

The Fighting Illini return nine letterwinners, including three starters, from the 2008-09 squad. Back in Orange and Blue are Illinois' three leading scorers from a year ago: Guard Demetri McCamey, forward Mike Davis and center Mike Tisdale.

VERSUS THE BIG TEN
Northern Illinois has recorded a 6-37 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, 2-8 versus Northwestern, 0-1 against Ohio State, 0-1 versus Purdue and 2-12 all-time against Wisconsin. As mentioned, Tuesday's game marks the first-ever contest between NIU and Illinois.

STATE OF ILLINOIS OPPONENTS GALORE
When Northern Illinois head coach Ricardo Patton took over the reins of the program prior to the 2007-08 season, one of his points of focus was to play an annually challenging non-conference schedule, and specifically, target the other 11 Division I schools in the state of Illinois. The Huskies have already played five of those foes in the Ricardo Patton era, and have three more (Illinois, UIC and Bradley) on the schedule this season. The only Division I schools in the state of Illinois that NIU has not played or officially scheduled are DePaul, Illinois State and Eastern Illinois.

Anderson scored 15 points and had eight rebounds at Northwestern.


ON THE ROAD AGAIN
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 opened up the season at Northwestern last Friday (Nov. 13), 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.

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.

SPORTING NEWS TABS NIU AS WEST'S TOP TEAM
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.





Junior guard Darion "Jake" Anderson enters Tuesday's game with 848 points, and is one bucket away from reaching 850 for his career -- he is on pace to reach the 1,000-point plateau in early January, and would be the 28th player in NIU history to accomplish that feat.


CHICAGO MOVES WEST
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.

SEASON #15 FOR COACH "P"
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.

BACK IN CARDINAL AND BLACK
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).

SILAS SIDELINED FOR AT LEAST TWO WEEKS WITH FRACTURED HAND
Northern Illinois junior guard Xavier Silas suffered a fractured right hand during the Huskies' season-opening game at Northwestern last Friday (Nov. 13), and will miss at least the next two weeks of action. The injury will not require surgery, but Silas' hand will be placed in a removable splint. He will be re-evaluated Dec. 1 before a return date to the Huskie lineup is set.

ANDERSON AT-A-GLANCE
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.

RARE COMPANY
After being named to the preseason All-MAC West team, junior Darion "Jake" Anderson appears to have an inside track to joining an impresive duo of past NIU players at the conclusion of his junior campaign. Anderson won tabbed the league's Freshman of the Year award in 2008. If he is named to either the MAC's first or second-team prior to the MAC Tournament in March (he was named second-team last season), Anderson would become only the third player in program history to be named conference freshman of the year, and be tabbed All-MAC in the ensuing two seasons. The other two players in Huskie lore to accomplish that feat are Allen Rayhorn (1978-82) and Kenny Battle (1984-86).

DINUNNO AT-A-GLANCE
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).

KOWAL AT-A-GLANCE
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.

MORE NEW FACES
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.

CHALLENGING SCHEDULE LIES AHEAD
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.

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.

RUCKER SIGNS
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 on Nov. 11. 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, on the current NIU roster.