That's right, 4-0 for the FIRST TIME EVER! Not to mention this 6-game winning streak is the first since the 1995-96 season. Oh yeah, that's also the last time we made it to the Big Dance. Interesting...
Ironically, I missed the majority of the first half because I dozed off a little too long from a nap. Good thing I didn't miss too much. The Huskies were doing the same thing; sleepwalking through the first half shooting an abysmal 6 of 25 from the field (24%). It's amazing that we were only down 22-25 at halftime. Xavier Silas and Jake Anderson were a combined 1-11. Against a better team, the game would have been out of hand for us at that point, so this was definitely a wake-up call for the Huskies.
The second half started off a bit slow, but eventually the Huskies got their stuff together and shot 50% in the 2nd period of play. It was back and forth for a while between the two squads until Jake and X finally got warmed up. Jake is never going to have flashy stats, but he was key in the stretch knocking down free throws and grabbing boards when it really mattered. He scored 10, but was only 1-7 from the field. However he shot 8-10 from the FT line along with 7 rebounds and 3 assists.
Huskies won because of: Free throws and an increased offensive efficiency as the game went on. A 51% FG Rate means that 51% of the shots NIU took were from the FT line. Had we made more than 64%, this game wouldn't have been as close as it was. Especially as Toledo finished 4 players with 4 PFs and the fact that the Rockets have zero bench depth. Efficiency on the offense improved as the game went on and we were able to make more threes (33% to 22%), while UT was also putting the ball on the floor a bunch (15-12)
Player of the game: Xavier Silas 19 pts (6-14 FG, 4-4 FT) was the difference maker in the 2nd half. He took a while to get hot, but his three straight 3-pointers during one stretch really put the Huskies over the top. NIU was looking all around for somebody to put the ball in the basket and X delivered. This team will go as far as Xavier chooses to take them.
Stepping up: I thought that Lee Fisher came out with a lot of energy in the 2nd half and really rallied the players around him. What he lacks in fundamentals (1-4 FTs, 2 TO), he makes up in grit and determination that the Huskies needed more of grabbing 4 boards and going 3-5 from the field. Mike DiNunno (1-5 FG) looked a bit frantic in this game, but Michael Patton did a nice job filling in minutes. He finished with 3 assists and hit 3-pointers when it really counted, resulting in 8 pts.
Contrasting big men: Sean Kowal also had a solid 9 pts and lead the team with 8 boards. Michael Fakuade (or Michael FAKOOD) scored only 2 pts and missed 2 FTs, but grabbed 4 boards. Fakuade was invisible, despite playing 22 mins and not even committing one personal foul. Weird. The announcer must have jinxed him.
Pregame stats I didn't know about until after the game: This might explain why the game was so close
The Rockets have won 15 of their last 17 meetings vs. the Huskies at Savage Arena...UT is 7-3 vs. the Huskies in the last 10 contest of the series...Toledo is 4-0 vs. NIU in MAC Tournament play, including a 78-77 victory in the 2006 quarterfinals...UT has won four of its last six contests in DeKalb but has lost in its last two visits.
Next up for the Huskies: NIU travels to Mt. Pleasant to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas for sole possession of 1st place in the MAC West.