Layton, NIU fall 3-pointer shy

By Wes Swietek

NIU guard Mark Layton had a perfect chance to cap his career-best game.

But in the end, the difference between Xavier’s and NIU’s men’s basketball teams Wednesday night proved to be the difference between made and missed free throws.

Layton missed a chance to tie the Musketeers in the game at Cincinnati as he split a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left. Xavier forward Aaron Williams nailed his two free throw attempts with eight seconds left to seal the Musketeers’ 77-74 victory.

But the Huskies put one more scare into Xavier as Layton took the ball the full length of the court after William’s free throws, only to miss a last-second three-pointer which would have tied the game.

“Mark took it to the three-point line, no one stopped him; he just missed it,” NIU head coach Brian Hammel said. “He’ll make it next time.”

For the game, Layton finished with a career-high 16 points and added six assists in 39 minutes of action.

With the loss, the Huskies dropped their record to 1-3.

But not before battling the heavily-favored Musketeers (3-0) to a draw for most of the game.

NIU built a 21-14 lead midway through the first half before a 19-6 Xavier run, sparked by the Musketeer’s All-America candidate Jamie Gladden, gave Xavier a 35-29 lead. But the Huskies’ Marlin Simms hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to make it 35-32 at intermission.

The squads traded the lead for most of the second half. The Huskies enjoyed their last lead of the game with three minutes left as Layton hit a three-pointer to make it 70-69, NIU.

But Gladden scored six straight points for Xavier in the final minutes before Williams hit his game-clinching free throws.

NIU’s Brian Molis had a career-high 13 rebounds to go along with his 11 points. Mike Hidden added 16 for the Huskies.

NIU guard Mike Lipnisky, who has not played this year because of an injured back, saw his first playing time in the second half. But Lipnisky’s comeback was short-lived as he reinjured his back shortly after entering the game. His status was still uncertain after the game.

Williams led the way for Xavier with 23 points while Gladden added 21.

“It was a great game … both teams played their hearts out,” Hammel said. “Our kids did a tremendous job.”