Forecast: Filzen Makes It Rain
Zach Filzen (5) led the Bulls to a 63-52 win over conference rival Northern Illinois. Clinton Hodnett /// The Spectrum
The Xavier Silas show was supposed to take center stage at Alumni Arena on Saturday afternoon, but senior guard Zach Filzen stepped in and stole the NBA prospect's spotlight.
Buffalo (13-6, 5-2 Mid-American Conference) extended its season-best win streak to five games in a 63-52 victory over Northern Illinois (7-12, 3-4 MAC).
Filzen electrified the 2,347 fans in attendance throughout the game with his 3-point shooting. He added five more 3-pointers to his MAC-leading total (67) and finished with 21 points to lead all scorers.
Head coach Reggie Witherspoon really liked how his team moved the ball and especially the way his players used screens in the game.
"I though Zach's movement without the ball made it difficult for our opponents," Witherspoon said. "These guys are prepared to make open shots and it's a bit risky to go under ball screens with guys that can shoot, like Zach."
Every time the Huskies came within striking distance, Filzen was right there to break their hearts from behind the arc. His lethal shooting touch is something he's worked on but tries hard not to think too much about.
"I'm just trying to [let the game] come to me and take shots when I'm open," Filzen said. "I put a lot of work in on my own…I focus on defense and rebounding and let everything else just happen."
Freshman guard Jarod Oldham may have had the toughest assignment in the game. He guarded Silas down the stretch when everyone in the arena knew the nation's second-leading scorer was coming after the Bulls.
Silas got his numbers, finishing with 20 points, but it came on 4-of-15 shooting and he never really seemed to get in a rhythm. He scored 12 of his points at the free throw line, and although he claimed not to be affected by any one player, Oldham's performance tells a different story.
Head coach Reggie Witherspoon knew Silas would not be an easy problem to solve but was confident that his team could slow him down.
"Playing against Jimmer Fredette helped us," Witherspoon said. "When guys [like Silas] score that much they're always looking to score…You have to always be alert…Understanding this guy is going to attack you every time he has the ball [is important]."
The Bulls are almost unbeatable when winning the battle of the glass. They are now 11-1 when they outrebound their opponent and Witherspoon felt his team did a good job keeping the Huskies off the glass.
Buffalo tied a season-best with only 10 turnovers in the game.
Witherspoon has been preaching to his team the importance of playing smart.
"We've been really working on [limiting turnovers]," Witherspoon said. "Some of it is decision making, some of it is controlling adrenaline, and some of it isn't forcing things that aren't there. If we trust each other and trust the movement we'll get shots."
Senior guard Byron Mulkey has become a second-half sensation for the Bulls in recent games. For the third straight game, Mulkey turned it on in the final 20 minutes and scored 12 of his 19 points. He combined with Filzen to grab 11 rebounds in the game.
Northern Illinois kept the score close for most of the game but never held a lead in the contest. As a team, the Huskies only shot 36 percent and just 2-of-12 from beyond the arc.
Huskies' forward Nate Rucker was the only other Northern Illinois player to score in double digits. He had 11 points and grabbed six rebounds and showed some impressive post moves against one the most feared post defenders in the MAC, junior forward Mitchell Watt.
Watt scored six points and had a game-high eight rebounds, but the MAC blocks leader went without recording a single rejection in the win.
For the second straight home game, the student section was rocking at Alumni Arena. Filzen showed appreciation for the fans that came out after the game.
"We love playing in front of crowds like that," Filzen said. "It's an incredible advantage. We need them to keep coming out because I'm really excited about this team and I think everyone should be."
The Bulls are home once again on Wednesday night when they host Toledo (4-16, 1-5 MAC) in their next game. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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