NIU to use Oil for final tune-up

By Wes Swietek

The NIU men’s basketball team faces its final tune-up of the season against Marathon Oil tonight before facing the long drive of the regular season.

Head mechanic, err, head coach Brian Hammel and his running Huskies face one of the top amateur teams in the country at Chick Evans Field House in the 7:05 p.m. exhibition closer.

Marathon Oil #2, an AAU team, is comprised of former collegiate players who compete around the nation. The Marathon Oil company sponsors three such squads.

MO #2 lost a squeaker to Illinois-Chicago, 94-92, before handling Northwestern 110-95 and Loyola, 69-57, in recent action. MO faced Marquette Monday night.

Those kinds of results, along with Marathon Oil’s 10 National Amateur Championships since 1978, have Hammel confident in predicting a stiff challenge for his Huskies.

“We don’t know a lot about them because they do add players all the time, but I know they’re always good,” Hammel said. “The players will all be good, athletic, mid to high major college basketball players. They’ll be strong, have good experience—it’ll be a good test for us.”

In the Huskies’ first test, against a Lithuanian club team, NIU showed it could put points on the board, but lost a 92-91 decision. Hammel said he hopes to see some changes in his squad in tonight’s match.

“We have to be a little more together as a team, have a little more enthusiasm, play a little more together, to make the extra pass, be a little quicker to help on rotation on defense when a man gets beat—to just think more as a unit.”

As far as a team approach, Hammel is treating the Marathon Oil game the same way as the Lithuanian match.

“We’ll take it the same way we took the Lithuanian game. We’ll look at different combinations because this will be our last dress rehearsal before we open up the regular season,” Hammel said.

Besides notching a different result than against Lithuania, Hammel has an agenda of improvements he’d like to see tonight.

“I’d like to extend the pressure a little bit more and certainly not foul as much. Have us not give up so many easy baskets, have better defensive conversion and get our post men involved in our offense more—that’s the half dozen or so things we’ll be looking to improve on Tuesday night,” Hammel said.

NIU also met Marathon Oil in a preseason match last year. Behind Donald Whiteside’s 22 points and Donnell Thomas’ 19 points and 10 rebounds, the Huskies dumped MO 79-67.

Current Huskies Mark Layton, Mike Lipnisky, David Mitchell and Mike Hidden saw action against Marathon Oil last season.

Hidden, with 16 points, and Brian Molis with 14 points, led the scoring attack for the Huskies against the Lithuanian squad.

Tuesday’s game marks the last exhibition game for NIU before facing Texas Tech Monday, Nov. 25, at Lubbock, Tex. The Huskies open the home portion of their schedule Saturday, Nov. 30 at 7:05 against Aurora University.