Men’s basketball loses sixth straight

By Andrew Singer

On Tuesday night, NIU head coach Ricardo Patton saw exactly how far the NIU men’s basketball team could get without a productive Xavier Silas in the lineup.

NIU (7-17 overall, 3-9 MAC) lost 77-65 in the second game of a four-game home stand. Silas struggled in his worst statistical performance in conference play this season. The senior netted seven points on 3-of-11 shooting in 25 minutes.

“I think he took tough shots tonight, but I don’t think he needed to take tough shots,” Patton said. “Players can make the game too tough sometimes.”

Out-rebounded 46-32 on the night, the Huskies received little help from post players Nate Rucker and Tim Toler.

“I thought we got dominated on the glass,” Patton said. “Was that due to size or a lack of effort? I don’t know which one it is.”

Silas sank only 1-of-8 shots taken in the first half. The Broncos’ Nate Hutcheson was matched up on the Huskies’ scoring leader. Silas notched his first points of the night with 5:18 remaining in the first half.

“I thought Hutcheson did a great job against Silas,” said WMU head coach Steve Hawkins. “He got into foul trouble late, but that is going to happen when you are guarding a player like Silas.”

The Huskies mirrored Silas’ shooting woes in the first half. NIU shot 32 percent from the field, while the Broncos sank 57 percent of their shots.

Despite some poor shooting, the Huskies hung with the Broncos by forcing some early turnovers. NIU tied the game at 24 on a Tim Toler basket. The Broncos responded, however, with a 12-0 run that took the wind out of the Huskies’ sails. NIU trailed Western Michigan 38-26 at halftime.

“We dug ourselves in a hole late in the first half,” Patton said. “We played them even in the second half, but we couldn’t get ourselves out of that hole.”

NIU shot better in the second half, but gained little ground on the Broncos. WMU (14-10, 7-4 MAC) kept the Huskies at an arm’s length through hard work under the glass.

“It’s different because they came out real aggressive the first time we played,” said Demetrius Ward of the teams’ Jan. 22 meeting. “Today, though, they played hard but I thought we played harder.”

Coming off the bench late, junior DeMarcus Grady scored 10 points in nine minutes on 3-of-5 shooting.

“Obviously it wasn’t good enough,” Grady said. “But when I get out there I’m just trying to be aggressive.”