Xavier Silas watched from the bench as the NIU men’s basketball team lost its eighth consecutive game on Wednesday night to Central Michigan, 64-58.
Silas left with an ankle injury about eight minutes into the second half. Without their leading scorer, the Huskies were left without a reliable scoring option in the dying minutes of a close game.
Down by three with 50 seconds left, redshirt freshman Antone Christian missed a contested layup, sealing NIU's (7-19 overall, 3-10 MAC) fate. Christian led NIU with 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting.
Seventeen lead changes characterized the tempo of play on Wednesday, as both teams went bucket-for-bucket for much of the night.
"It was just like a heavyweight bout going back and forth," said CMU head coach Ernie Zeigler. "They would throw a punch, and then we would come right back with one of our own."
The Huskies were playing with a shuffled lineup against CMU. After fracturing his foot against Seattle last Saturday, Lee Fisher was on the bench in a boot. Tim Toler returned to the Huskies after missing the last game with concussion-like symptoms.
DeMarcus Grady started at point guard for a second straight game with junior Bryan Hall still recovering from a hamstring injury. Grady finished with five points and three assists in 24 minutes.
"Losing these games would be frustrating if I didn't understand the game," said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. "We are missing a lot of pieces. Lee Fisher isn't playing, and at the end of the day we are playing a guy [Grady], that just left the football field, at the point."
The Huskies sank nine of their first 11 shots and ended the first half shooting 65 percent. Eleven first-half turnovers, however, kept the Chippewas (9-18, 6-7) in the game.
With six NBA scouts in attendance, CMU's Jalin Thomas put on a show in the first half. Thomas sank 6-of-7 three-point shots in the first half. The senior guard beat the first-half buzzer with a three-pointer that cut the NIU lead to 34-33. Thomas finished with 29 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
Early in the second half, neither team showed any sign of letting up. The score stood at 43-42 in favor of CMU when Silas fell awkwardly on his ankle while driving to the lane.
Much to the chagrin of CMU, the Huskies did not miss a beat immediately following the Silas injury. The two squads were knotted at 58 with three minutes remaining.
The Chippewas took the lead for good on two Derek Jackson free throws with 1:39 remaining. Following an unsuccessful trip down the floor, the Huskies were forced into a foul game that proved impossible to win with CMU hitting its free throws.
"Show up, tell the truth, and trust in God," Patton said. "That's all we can do right now."