By Doug Halberstadt
The hottest thing in Illinois sports right now is about 45 miles from Rockford. It happens to be the Northern Illinois Huskies men’s basketball team. They have won five games in a row, and will be trying to make it six straight tonight (Wednesday, Jan. 20).
They’ll have to win on the road if they are going to keep their streak alive. The Huskies face Mid America Conference foes, the Toledo Rockets,k at the John F. Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio, in a 6 p.m. contest. Northern is undefeated in conference play, 3-0. Toledo is winless in the MAC (0-3) and is coming off a big loss (71-43) against the Ball State Cardinals last Sunday (Jan. 17).
The Huskies’ most recent victory was a 77-69 win over Eastern Michigan last Saturday (Jan. 16). Much of NIU’s recent success is attributed to the welcome return of junior guard Xavier Silas. He missed the first part of the season after suffering a broken hand in the Huskies’ season-opener against Northwestern.
Last week, Silas earned his second consecutive MAC-West Player of the Week honors. In his last game against EMU, he led the team with 25 points. He also set a single-game school record with a 15-for-15 effort from the free-throw line in a game against Ball State Jan. 9.
Silas’ 25 points were a single-game high for a MAC player in the league’s opening weekend of divisional play. He leads the Huskies in scoring at 19.1 points per game, is shooting a team-best 78.7 percent from the free-throw line and is NIU’s second-leading rebounder (5.8 rpg).
The next time area fans can catch Silas and his Huskies teammates in DeKalb is next Wednesday night (Jan. 27) when they host the Ohio Bobcats. It’s highly possible they could be going for their eighth win in a row that night.
I’m sure they’d welcome any of their Rockford fans into the Convocation Center, especially those willing to join their faithful in cheering loudly for the hottest team in the state.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Jan. 20-26, 2010 issue