The Northern Illinois men’s basketball team opens the 2010-11 season with a home game for the first time in four seasons when the Huskies welcome the Northwestern Wildcats to the NIU Convocation Center Friday. Tip-off is set for 8:05 p.m. (CST) as Northwestern becomes the first Big Ten men’s basketball team to play in the nine-year-old facility.
The Northern Illinois ISP Sports Network broadcast of the game will be heard on WSCR 670 AM The Score in Chicago as well as the flagship station, WLBK 1360 AM in DeKalb. Watch the game live online via Huskie All-Access at www.NIUHuskies.com.
Tickets for the game can be ordered online at www.NIUHuskies.com, or purchased at the Convocation Center. Single game tickets are $10 for a reserved, lower bowl seat or $8 for a general admission ticket in the upper bowl. The Family Four Pack consists of four general admission tickets for $18 and includes access to the FanFest Kids Area prior to the game.
The 2010-11 Northern Illinois squad is markedly different than the one which lost to Northwestern, 77-55, in last year’s season opener in Evanston as NIU has seven newcomers on the roster. In addition, only one of the Huskies’ two returning starters – senior Xavier Silas – will start Friday as forward Lee Fisher, an 18-game starter a year ago, has been hobbled by an ankle injury. Silas averaged 19.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game a year ago while earning NABC All-District and All-MAC honors. He ranked second in the Mid-American Conference in scoring a year ago and scored in double figures 19 times, surpassing the 20-point mark in 10 games.
Northwestern returns four starters and 12 letterwinners from the 2009-10 squad that went 20-14 and played in the National Invitational Tournament. Wildcats’ junior forward John Shurna was a consensus second-team All-Big Ten selection a year ago after averaging 18.2 points per game.
NIU fourth-year head coach Ricardo Patton says that the game provides Northern Illinois fans with the opportunity to see an exciting basketball game to start the season.
“This is a great contest for our fans to have an opponent the caliber of Northwestern come into the Convocation Center,” Patton said. “I want to thank [Northwestern] Coach [Bill] Carmody for bringing his team to DeKalb. We have a challenge as they are a very, very good basketball team, a very disciplined team and they don’t beat themselves. Defensively, we have to guard well against the tough offense that they run”
Joining Silas in Patton’s projected starting line-up for Friday are guards Bryan Hall (Chicago, Ill./Whitney Young HS) and Michael Patton (Boulder, Colo./Boulder HS) and forwards Tim Toler (Avon, Ind./Avon HS/Danville Area C.C.) and Nate Rucker (Memphis, Tenn./Melrose HS).
Toler, a 6-7, 270-pound forward with a shooter’s touch and Rucker, a 6-6, 245 pound banger inside, will make their collegiate debuts as will a host of freshmen guards, led by Kyree Jones, a 6-2, 205-pound point guard from Indianapolis, Ind.
Patton said his team has worked hard in the days and weeks leading up to the season opener.
“Our guys’ effort has been good, their attitude has been good,” he said. “I feel good about the work the guys have done. Those are controllable elements. We’ve still got guys banged up that are question marks for the game, but you’ve got to focus on things you can control.
“I am always optimistic. If you are making shots, you can beat anyone.”
Friday’s basketball game will be preceded by a critical Mid-American Conference volleyball match between Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan at Victor E. Court beginning at 6 p.m. The Huskies, 24-5 overall, and EMU are both 10-4 in the league and are battling for a bye in the league tournament. One ticket will be accepted for both events. Fans who come to the volleyball game will be admitted to the basketball game free, while basketball ticket holders will be able to see the volleyball match free of charge.