On a night where its seniors were revered, NIU guard Jeremy Landers came through with a huge performance.
With senior Xavier Silas still nursing an ankle injury from the Central Michigan matchup on Feb. 23, Landers tied a career-high with 17 points, leading the http://www.niuhuskies.com/sports/m-baskbl/niu-m-baskbl-body.htmlaskbl/niu-m-baskbl-body.html" target="_blank">Huskies (9-19 overall, 5-10 MAC) to victory over Eastern Michigan (8-21, 4-11), 66-49.
Landers and fellow senior Michael Patton got the start in their final home game, as Patton contributed six points of his own. For Huskies head coach Ricardo Patton, senior night was sentimental seeing his son play his last collegiate game.
"I am proud of my son," Ricardo said. "I'm proud of Jeremy, and all these guys are like sons [to me]."
The Huskies ran out to an 8-0 lead. Their first six points came from forward Tim Toler and a basket by redshirt freshman Antone Christian. Shots didn't fall the same way for Eastern Michigan, as the Eagles connected on only four field goals on 25 attempts in the first half.
"I thought our defense was solid," Ricardo Patton said. "We gave great effort on the defensive end."
With Silas sidelined for the second straight game, it appeared the Huskies might struggle without their leading scorer. But on Wednesday night, Landers stepped up in a huge way, and NIU won its second straight game without Silas.
"Most games, you don't need the best player in the conference [to win,]" Patton said. "You just need the best player that night and I thought we had one of the best players tonight against this opponent [in Jeremy Landers.]"
Ironically, both Landers and Michael Patton had tough falls of their own in their final regular season home game. Landers went down in the first half at the 6:24 mark with what he would later call a tail-bone injury, while Patton was bumped by Eastern Michigan defender Adrian Burton and limped to the bench with a leg cramp.
"I didn't have much of a choice of not playing anymore," Michael Patton said. "When I went down, [Jeremy] came over and said, ‘you need to go ahead and stretch that out and get back in here; I need you.'"
At the 4:29 mark in the second half, Landers made a steal and raced toward the basket where he was guarded on both sides. Despite being covered and fouled, Landers managed to lay it in for the basket and would connect on his free throw.
On the Huskies' next offensive possession, Landers decided to get his fellow senior involved. Landers would dish to a wide open Patton at the top of the key, where he drilled his jumper only a few inches from the three-point mark. Soon after Patton drained his shot, Landers jumped for joy.
"Just to see him and see us go out like that, was just special to me," Landers said. "I'm just an emotional person and I guess it came out."
The Huskies will conclude their regular season on the road this Saturday when they take on Ball State at 1:00 p.m.
Eagles' head coach Charles Ramsey declined to participate in a post-game press conference.