Huskies cruise in exhibition opener

By Carl Ackerman

If Tuesday night’s exhibition performance by the NIU men’s basketball team is any indication of the type of season to come, the Huskies can expect a prosperous year.

NIU hammered the Australian Sydney Kings 89-57 in front of 1,228 fans at the Chick Evans Field House.

Although it was the first exhibition game of the season for the Huskies, NIU head coach Jim Molinari was content with what he saw.

“This was a good start. I’m pleased with our performance, but I don’t think this is a real test yet,” Molinari said.

Sydney has played four games in the last five nights. Molinari feels that was a big factor for NIU’s successful performance.

Five Huskies scored in double figures. Donnell Thomas paved the way for NIU’s scoring barrage despite playing just 19:30. Thomas mustered 16 points, four rebounds and went four-for-five from the line.

The game served as a warm-up for NIU and also allowed coach “Mo” to evaluate his team’s performance in a game situation for the first time this season.

“I think we played good defense, except that we fouled too much,” Molinari said. “But I still think that’s going to be our trademark. I think we have more depth than last year. The seniors are going to have to continue to give us good leadership.” Molinari also feels his team needs to shoot field goals more effectively than 11 for 25 (.440 percent).

Despite the strong offensive output by NIU, the game was six minutes old before the Huskies put more than six points on the board when Mike Lipnisky hit a 16-foot jumper from the right side.

NIU would then go on a rampage of 13 unanswered points to leap to a 19-10 lead. The Kings never overcame the NIU attack.

“I think we were nervous (at first). We were excited about playing our first game. I feel that was our reason for the slow start, but I think our defense kept us in there,” Molinari said.

“I think the game was over after the first 10 minutes,” Sydney head coach Bob Turner said. “We lost all heart out there after the first 10 or 12 minutes.

“I give full credit to Northern Illinois. They played with a lot of heart. They play tough and they’re well-coached. They ran their offense very efficiently,” Turner said.

Donald Whiteside scored 12 points for NIU. Antwon Harmon, Mike Hidden and Andrew Wells racked up 10 points for the Huskies. Wells was six-for-six from the line.

Randy Henry led the scoring attack for Sydney with 12 points and had four rebounds in just 14 minutes of action.