Raiders ruin Hammel’s debut

By Steve Dennis

All of the NIU-Texas Tech pre-game hype centered around both teams being directed by rookie coaches that love the up-tempo style.

Instead, both men’s basketball coaches were treated to some stellar defense until the 17-minute mark of the first half. That’s when Texas Tech went on a 10-0 run that propelled the Red Raiders to an 82-68 victory in front of 2,310 fans Monday night at the Civic Arena in Lubbock, Tx.

The first 17 minutes were filled with six ties and 10 lead changes, with the biggest advantage a mere two buckets by either squad.

Senior Mike Hidden canned two free throws at the 3:09 mark to put NIU ahead, 30-29. But Texas Tech center Will Flemons answered with two of his game- and career-high 27 points to give the Red Raiders a one-point edge.

Texas Tech rattled off the next eight consecutive points before David Mitchell connected on a jumper to fizzle the 10-0 fire. Texas Tech still jaunted into the lockerroom with momentum and a 39-32 advantage.

“We had a couple of guys in foul trouble and we had a lot of different combinations on the court at one time that we are not used to,” NIU coach Brian Hammel said. “That hurt us and we weren’t strong enough to answer the run. I was actually happy to get in the lockerroom down by just seven.”

The hosts extended their lead to 13 points (51-38) midway through the second half as Flemons continued to plague the NIU defense.

With 9:11 remaining in the contest, NIU point guard Mark Layton was fouled beyond the three-point line and hit the ensuing three free throws that cut the Texas Tech lead back to seven. The Huskies had a chance to cut the deficit down to five but saw an errant pass fly out of bounds and Texas Tech converted on the other end to go up 59-48.

“We came out lethargic and didn’t do a good job right off the bat in the second half,” Hammel said. “But give Texas Tech credit, they played good on both sides of the floor.”

Handy Fens, who led NIU with 16 points, kept the Huskies within striking distance until the game turned into a free-throw shooting spree as Hammel and Co. were forced to play the clock instead of the Red Raiders.

NIU (0-1) now turns its attention to Marquette. The Huskies travel to Milwaukee this Thursday for a noon showdown with the Warriors. NIU’s first home game is slated for Saturday at 7:05 against Division III Aurora University.