The Northern Illinois men’s basketball team defeated Toledo, 64-54, on Saturday afternoon at the NIU Convocation Center to improve to 2-1 in the Mid-American Conference, 6-9 overall. Senior guard Xavier Silas led NIU with 20 points; junior forward Tim Toler added 14 points while junior guard Bryan Hall tied a career-high with seven assists.
Northern Illinois shot 41.4 percent (24-of-58) in the contest, including 48.1 percent (13-of-27) in the second half. The Huskies made 11 three-pointers in the victory while Toledo made just three. The NIU bench outscored its counterpart from Toledo 19-2 in the game.
The 54 total points was a season-low for a NIU opponent this season.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game at times but we were still able to come away with the victory,” said NIU head coach Ricardo Patton. “I thought our defense helped us maintain the lead most of the game, offensively we started to move the ball in the second half and got some good looks.”
Silas started red-hot from beyond the three-point arc, knocking down his first three attempts of the contest as the Huskies took an early 9-5 lead.
Combined with his 6-of-6 performance against Eastern Michigan, Silas made nine-straight three-point attempts before missing his fourth attempt against the Rockets.
The NIU lead reached double figures just past the midway point of the half as senior guard Michael Patton buried a triple from the wing to increase the Huskies lead to 23-13. Northern Illinois started the game 6-of-9 from three-point range.
Toledo held NIU scoreless for six minutes late in the first half as the Rockets cut the Huskie lead to five, 26-21. Sophomore guard Tony Nixon ended the NIU drought with a triple to push the lead back to eight with 1:24 to play in the opening stanza.
The Rockets scored a basket with four seconds remaining to cut the NIU lead to six, 29-23, at the intermission.
Toledo’s Malcolm Griffin led all scorers with 10 points in the opening 20 minutes; Silas scored nine to lead Northern Illinois. NIU went 7-of-16 (43.8 percent) from beyond the three-point arc in the first half while Toledo shot just 2-of-10 (20.0 percent) from deep.
Silas opened the second half with a triple, pushing the NIU lead to nine, 32-23.
After Toledo cut the NIU advantage back to a half-dozen, 35-29, the Huskies used a 7-0 run to take a 42-29 lead with 12:23 to play. Silas started the burst with a basket before senior guard Jeremy Landers hit a trifecta and Toler capped the run with a bucket.
The Rockets responded with nine-straight to pull within four, 42-38, before Nixon stopped the run with a three for NIU with just over nine minutes remaining.
Still leading by seven with under two minutes to play, Toler finished a fast break at the rim to give NIU a 58-49 lead with 1:50 to play, forcing a Toledo timeout.
The Rockets would get no closer down the stretch as they made just 2-of-7 shots in the final two minutes.
Griffin paced Toledo with a game-high 31 points; he was the only Rocket in double figures.
NIU will return to action on Thursday, Jan. 20, when the Huskies travel to Mt. Pleasant, Mich., to take on Central Michigan. Game time against the Chippewas is slated for 6 p.m. CT.