DeKALB – Xaiver Silas was dominant once again.
The Northern Illinois senior, who came into Tuesday’s game against the University of Illinois-Chicago second in the nation in scoring behind Connecticut’s Kemba Walker, scored a career-high 40 points against the Flames, taking over in the second half and leading NIU to an 80-78 victory.
Silas’ 40-point effort was a Convocation Center record.
UIC (4-7) got off to a commanding lead in the first half, but NIU (3-4) closed the gap and trailed by only four points at halftime. The Flames went on to open up the lead at the beginning of the second, but NIU went on to outscore UIC 51-45 after halftime behind Silas’ 28 second-half points.
“We know offensively he’s a tough matchup most nights,” NIU coach Ricardo Patton said. “He’s a guy that once he stops settling for the jumpshot, he’s going to be very difficult to guard. Free throws, he’s proven time and time again to be a very efficient free-throw shooter. We needed everyone tonight.”
It was an interesting first half for Silas, who shot just 1-for-8 from the field before halftime but was able to get to the line 10 times and make all of his free throws. Silas finished the game 22-for-24 from the free-throw line.
“At first the jumpers weren’t really falling, so I really tried to get to the line and get going,” Silas said. “They still weren’t falling in the first half but I still kept getting to the line. That opened up the jumpers to start falling in the second half.”
Just as Silas struggled in the first half, so did the rest of his team. NIU shot just 26 percent from the field in the first half before shooting 52 percent in the second.
UIC’s leading scorer coming into the game, senior Robo Kreps, finished the game with seven points before fouling out with two minutes remaining.
“It didn’t hurt us for Kreps to foul out when he did,”Patton said.
NIU will take on Temple in Philadelphia at 1 p.m. Saturday.