Created:Thursday, November 19, 2009 12:06 a.m.CDT
Updated:Thursday, November 19, 2009 12:15 a.m.CDT
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Hall making strides

By JOHN SAHLY - jsahly@daily-chronicle.com
Northern Illinois guard Bryan Hall moves the ball up the floor against Illinois this past Tuesday. (Associated Press)

CHAMPAIGN – Bryan Hall had worked on it the entire offseason.

Not the running halfcourt bank shot the Northern Illinois sophomore guard drilled just before the halftime buzzer sounded on Tuesday at No. 23 Illinois, though there are many less exciting ways to make one's first collegiate three-pointer.

"I've tried to get him to shoot the ball so many types of ways," guard Jake Anderson said with a smile. "He just had to get his first collegiate three, even if it was from halfcourt."

No, what Hall spent so much time on over the summer and into the start of the season showed itself just a few minutes before.

Hall found two different ways to attack the Illinois defense, get a steal and finish at the rim with layups. It was a part of a 19-3 NIU run to close the Fighting Illini's lead to three points early in the second half before the Huskies ultimately fell, 80-61.

"The coaches have been teaching us different sorts of angles and showing us how to get off screens and get more aggressive and getting into our man," Hall said.

That's exactly what Hall did by pressuring Illinois guard D.J. Richardson and then swiping a pass from forward Dominique Keller on back-to-back possessions.

Hall picked up Richardson right around halfcourt and pressured the Illinois guard to make a move. Richardson lost his footing and Hall took advantage. On the ensuing possession, Hall took a different angle on a Mike Davis screen and surprised Keller by jumping into the passing lane, leading to a steal and an easy layup.

"I just felt we had to dig in and get aggressive on defense because they were pounding us pretty good," Hall said. "Something clicked over."

That defensive effort is something NIU coach Ricardo Patton, who started Hall in the second half, noticed.

"I really liked his energy that he brought to the floor," Patton said. "I thought when he came and started to play solid on the defensive end, he just picked up everybody's intensity."

Hall hit career highs in points, field goals, field goal attempts in addition to what he did on defense.

"I think he has played with some confidence lately," Patton said. "He has really been practicing well and it's just a matter of getting him some time and tonight he took advantage of it."

If Hall can keep up that level of play, he gives the Huskies options in the backcourt, something NIU especially could use with Xavier Silas out for at least two weeks with a fractured hand.

"He played great out there," Anderson said. "We need that type of play off the bench. It's going to help us throughout the season."

Will the NIU football team play for the MAC title this year?
Yes
No
Too soon to tell