Loss to Musketeers not hard to swallow

By Wes Swietek

In sports, there are losses that are like uncooked spaghetti—hard to swallow.

Then there are losses that are like strawberry ice cream—they go down a lot easier.

The one suffered by the NIU men’s basketball team Wednesday at Xavier fit into the latter category.

Although the 77-74 loss goes down on the right side of the won/loss ledger, the Huskies performed well against the 3-0 Musketeers.

“We competed well and had a good physical effort. Xavier is a heck of a ball club. For us to go in there and compete as well as we did … that was a positive.

“There’s no question we’re progressing. We just need to keep improving,” said NIU head coach Brian Hammel, who nonetheless found some areas in Wednesday’s game that need improvement.

“We still had some unforced errors and wound up beating ourselves,” Hammel said.

The Huskies had 19 turnovers against Xavier. “We had a great physical effort but not a mental one. At times, we played like we were double parked,” Hammel said after the game of the turnovers.

On another down note, sophomore guard Mike Lipnisky, who sat out NIU’s first three games with an injured back, reinjured himself against Xavier.

Lipnisky made his season debut in the second half, but only played a few seconds before he dove for a loose ball and aggravated his back.

Lipnisky went to see the team’s doctor in Rockford Thursday. His prognosis is still uncertain, said Hammel, who added that NIU might ask Lipnisky to redshirt this season if his back doesn’t improve.

“(Lipnisky’s) back to square one. He’s pretty frustrated right now,” Hammel said.

The Huskies now have two weeks off before facing DePaul at Alumni Hall in Chicago on Dec. 18.

The lay off is an unwelcome distraction for the 1-3 Huskies, as far as Hammel is concerned.

“The bad thing is that we’re game-ready. Now, with two weeks off, you don’t stay game-sharp, your timing is off,” Hammel said.

The rookie coach said he will run his team through some intrasquad games to keep them sharp.

“We’ll deal with it as best as we can,” Hammel said. “We’ll have some dress rehearsals and treat them as real games; that’s the best we can do.”